Looking for Beauty

Words: Shannon Latimer
Artworks: Solly Smook
For more of Solly's work go to: smudgecontemporaryart.co.za.
About the Artist
Solly Smook, his partner, and their seven-year-old son stay in the little country town of Riebeek Kasteel, which he describes as “incredible”. They love the town and its people. They have two dogs and a Quaker parakeet called Blue, and enjoy spending time in their aviary. They also love the outdoors and go camping and fishing often.

We chat to artist Solly Smook about the influences in his life and why he mostly paints portraits

You studied graphic design; what did you do in that field?
I worked in the graphic design industry for a few years, but it left me wanting.

Did it have any lasting influence on your artistic process?
In art there is freedom in removing any distinct labels in your life, of breaking free from the historical “how to’s”. Although I have kept a few graphic design techniques, I would like to think I borrow from all fields when creating art.
Why the interest in portraits? Do you also work on other subjects?
I also sometimes play with landscapes and other subject matter. But the human face actually contains all subject matter. It reflects landscape. It reflects the primal and the evolved—that which separates us, and that which makes us one. The human face can reflect beauty and darkness at the same time. In portraits I find everything I want to express.
Does your work have a message for the viewer?
I strive to remind the viewer of beauty. We have forgotten to see beauty. We have limited its observation to only a few special moments in our lives. I would like to show the viewer that beauty can be found everywhere, that it is even found in sadness, as love is found in pain. I would like my portraits to remind the viewer of these things.
Your colour palette is similar throughout your portraits, any particular reason?
I think my colour palette is an indication of my inner space—it represents certain time periods. I like doing a range of pale works just as much as a series in bold, evocative colours.
Have you travelled a lot, if so, where do you like to go?
I have travelled some, not a lot. I enjoy the beauty of Ireland and especially its temperamental coastline. My favourite place, though, is the Namib Desert. I was born and raised there, and always seem to find myself in its vast solitude. In the Namib I don’t feel an urge to create. I just experience it, let myself remember. In Namibia, being in the moment does not take any effort.
Where are you exhibiting at the moment?
My next solo exhibition will be in April at Smudge Contemporary Art Gallery, in Clarens. I am very excited about it because I love to experiment and explore, and each solo exhibition always makes one come up with a new twist or change in technique and style.
Go to www.smudgecontemporaryart.co.za.