Keir Smith: From Wall to Floor focuses on the artist’s work made in the 1970s and early 80s, a time when he made the transition from figurative painting into sculpture, experimenting first with process-based art and performance before moving into a landscape setting. Smith’s oeuvre presents an ongoing conversation between sculpture and painting. He moved back and forth between the two, using two-dimensional media to develop and document his three-dimensional ideas, and to explore qualities of surface and narrative imagery, which remained key themes throughout his artistic practice.
As a student in Newcastle in the early 1970s, under the tutelage of Ian Stephenson, Smith started to investigate the material possibilities of paint, canvas and stretcher and to work these elements into three-dimensional compositions. Later, he developed wall-based installations that harnessed the physical properties of different materials, but were often realised only, or most completely, on paper in highly skilled, polychromatic technical drawings. In the early 1980s, he turned process into performance, creating a series of sculptures and installations documenting his interaction with the landscape, often presented as compositions or images on the ground.
The exhibition celebrates the acquisition of Keir Smith’s archive, together with works on paper and sculptures to the Leeds collection in 2012. It is one of a number of recent additions to the collection focusing on artists who emerged in the 1970s and 80s including Helen Chadwick, Phyllida Barlow, Darrell Viner and Shelagh Cluett.
Keir Smith (1950-2007) studied at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (1969-73) and at Chelsea School of Art (1973-75). He exhibited extensively in solo and group exhibitions in the UK and completed many commissions for sculptures for public and landscape sites in the 1980s and 90s, including Grizedale Forest, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Henrietta House, London (Public Art Development Trust) and the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail. He lived and worked in London and Suffolk, teaching at Wimbledon School of Art.