Improvements adapted its title from Mark Smith’s eleven hand-formed ceramic letters that spell out the word IMPROVABLE. For the past 15 years, Smith—who lives with a disability— has made art invested in the shared, yet singular, human condition of having a body. He is perhaps best known for his figurative soft sculptures, such as his life-sized reproduction of a newborn baby being born; or his small scale ceramics studies of women’s bodies. IMPROVABLE is an open-ended reflection on the conditions of its own production—not idealised by the artist, the work is slightly wonky, each letter balances precariously to stand. Although a departure from his figurative representations of the body, this work extends Smith’s ongoing interest in the variances and differences of being human.
Working across painting, ceramics, mixed media, video and soft sculpture, Mark Smith’s primarily figurative works are concerned with how the physicality of the body relates to human nature and the human condition. Smith considers the body a non-negotiable starting point for existence, using the primitive vessel to explore the truly distinctive characteristics of being human. Within this framework Smith addresses the experiences and complexities of the individual and of humanity as a whole, as well examining the ‘language’ of a subtle movement or position. Working purely from feeling or emotion rather than a model or image, Smith’s works possess an intrinsic nature or indispensable quality that imbues them with a deep sense of character.
Mark Smith has been working in the Arts Project Australia studio since 2003. Exhibitions include the solo exhibition Words Are… Jarmbi Gallery Upstairs, Burrinja, Upwey (2014), as well as group shows Spring1883, The Hotel Windsor, Melbourne, 2018 & The Establishment, Sydney (2017 & 2019); In Concert, Gertrude Glasshouse, Melbourne. 2016; and My Puppet, My Secret Self, The Substation, Newport (2012). In 2014, he self-published Alive, an auto- biographical reflection of his life.