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Anj Smith at the Sara Hildén Art Museum

Published 19.9.2018 8.00

The exhibition opening on the top floor of the Sara Hildén Art Museum on September 22 is the first solo show in Finland by the painter Anj Smith (b. 1978), who lives and works in London.


At the heart of Anj Smith’s output is painting – as a subject, a technology, a personal language, and a cultural signifier. The traditional subgenres of painting – landscape, portrait and still life – overlap in Smith’s works. Their sources of inspiration are manifold and include art history, literature, fashion subcultures, and the mysteries of the plant and animal world.

While musing over titles for the exhibition, Smith discovered the Crinoidea – the sea lilies and feather stars. The Crinoidea have always been with us, developing slowly, but remaining fundamentally unchanged. For Smith they have become a personal metaphor for painting.

Smith finds the language of oil painting especially rich for rendering her subject matter. She diversely deploys its various modes of expression: thick, translucent layers of paint, details painted with a fine brush, and pigments squeezed straight from the tube.

In her latest paintings Smith has addressed issues related to the fragility of identity and the complexity of gender, one influence here being a close friend who underwent a long, traumatic gender reassignment.

Smith admits that her latest portraits probably contain autobiographical elements – not on the level of physical resemblance, but of an internal state of mind. These psychological portraits are research into how the self or experience of the self can be depicted using the means of creative expression.

“My main medium is ideas rather than painting, although painting itself is also the subject of the work," Smith says. In her production she explores how art and life are mediated by the painted surface.

“One fascinating aspect of Anj Smith’s work is the way she combines traditional oil painting with conceptual contemporary art," says Museum Director Päivi Loimaala.

Anj Smith is a Sara Hildén Art Museum Collection artist. To coincide with her solo show, an exhibition of works from the Sara Hildén Foundation Collection, Sara Hildén and the Classics, is opening on the Museum’s ground floor.

Anj Smith will introduce her exhibition to the public at a meet-the-artist event at 11am on Saturday, September 22. The event will be in English.

Anj Smith – Sea Lily, Feather Star 22.9.2018–20.1.2019

Further information

Museum Director Päivi Loimaala Tel. 040 580 6552

Chief Curator (Exhibitions) Sarianne Soikkonen Tel. 040 801 6088

Communications Coordinator Anne Kauramäki Tel. 040 837 0357

Sara Hildén Art Museum

Photos Anj Smith, Uncurtaining the night, 2014. Sara Hildén Foundation. Image: Jussi Koivunen/Sara Hildén Art Museum