cody smith artist
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DESCRIPTIONAn art program publication that presents the Toronto based Artist, Cody Smith, "Voids" art series. VOIDS We question, explore, test, and long to fill them. Cody explores the idea of voids, found in humans, found in places, found in cities and nature alike. What does a void look like? During the past year Cody returned to his home region of Niagara. This move triggered visual memories that subconsciously bled into his paintings forming the bases of ‘VOIDS’. Cody views this series as an exploration of his visual past, and its influence on the future.
Meet Cody.At 26, hes already got an impressive list of painting series and solo shows under his belt. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from OCAD University in 2010, then spent time in Glasgow, Scotland, evolving his practice. Now hes back in Toronto, and working harder than ever.
Want to know more? Turn the page.
SO WHATS HIS STORY?Article and photographs by Emma Sharpe
I caught Cody for a conversation in his East End Toronto apartment - on moving day. There was only a trace of his belongings left: a few paint-splattered chairs, a small table, some empty frames and three paintings. As I walked through the apartment, I was struck by their size. The paintings dominated the space, standing almost floor to ceiling. You could walk up and stare at patches of detail or stand back and see it as a whole. The empty Toronto apartment with those checkered wooden floors made for a surprisingly fitting backdrop for an introduction to his work.
After looking at the paintings and sipping on coffee, we settled into the two chairs in the corner, and over a plate of Smarties, began to talk.
Looking back I feel that most people came to art school with a preconceived notion or style of how their art should look. I came in with no foundation, I couldnt even draw really. So basically I showed up and said teach me.
Cody described how a high school teacher began him on the path hes on. I was just a directionless kid he says. He wasnt the first teenager to pick up a high school art class in hopes of getting an easy A. But when his art teacher saw potential in the raw abstracts that Cody was creating, she gave him a key to the art room. I didnt know how to paint or what to paint but for some reason I just enjoyed going to paint in the art room every day after school. It felt right.
It was in high school where he created the body of work that would earn him acceptance into OCAD University. He describes going in completely green: Looking back I feel that most people came to art school with a preconceived notion or style of how their art should look. I came in with no foundation, I couldnt even draw really. So basically I showed up and said teach me. I learned everything with no prior training which was very painful but great. I felt like I was just filling my pot with skills.
I looked around at the paintings hanging in the room. One, a huge building facade on what looks like a generic Toronto street. The other, a large glass building complex with each window a different hue. And the last, a dark sky and building with a blast of street light. All void of actual human presence, but rife with human context, traces of lives.
I began asking him about his paintings. As we talked about his work, I had a feeling that this was as much of a learning experience for him as it was for me. I felt my art school instincts jerk forward as I looked for meaning in the work: those sharp diagonals always cutting through the canvas is that a metaphor for something? For life itself? For humanity? I could sense that
I was heading in the wrong direction. There is lofty meaning in those paintings, there is a transcendent quality, but what I felt above all as I looked for qualitative meaning was the need to relax. To get back to Earth, to the basics. Cody has two feet firmly planted on the ground. If anything, those formal qualities that I saw, the composition, those visual metaphors, all arose from a natural, instinctual process. When Cody paints, hes just painting. Hes there, hes quiet, hes present. He works from photographs, from memories. He starts with a structure, then lets the layers of colour, the washes, evolve naturally. The layers of meaning are built through a meditative practice, rather than a purposeful deconstruction of a concept. And thats what I was feeling as I spoke to Cody about his work. He had his experiences with each painting, but having an onlooker interpret the finished product meant that he learned things he hadnt realized before.
When Cody paints, hes just painting. Hes there, hes quiet, hes present. He works from photographs,from memories.
Looking out from Codys balcony, it was clear to see the raw sources of Codys work. Its what surrounds him, everyday. It was a grey day when we spoke. The view from his 16th floor was pretty encompassing. As I looked out I could see many elements present in his paintings:
power lines, electricity towers, lampposts, all balanced with a heavy canopy of trees. Your typical urban landscape, with enough distance that individual humans werent visible. I almost laughed at the connections my mind was making: This is it! This is one of his paintings, in the flesh! Lofty interpretations aside, it was an apt comparison. Codys work is very much made up of those mundane, everyday human landscapes. He describes how as we walk past the same scene everyday it becomes a wash in our mind. Loosely held visual memories that layer upon themselves. Sometimes the scene is grey and cloudy, sometimes sunny, sometimes dark, sometimes light. His painting process echoes those washes with the physical application of paint. Layer after layer, the scene morphs and changes. Behind the colour on the surface of the finished piece lives a variety of different takes. Variations on the same door, facade or sky. You can often see these shadow colours peeking through: dark bricks lined with red or a yellow haze around a blue window.
Some of the most striking examples of these washes of memory emerged from his year spent in Glasgow, Scotland. According to Cody, this is where his current practice really began. It took a shift in perspective that relocation often brings to really start seeing these everyday moments. It was in Glasgow where Cody discovered the bicycle motif that would be the centre of a large body of work. He saw them everywhere, and began to see its connections to the human world: The bike seems to be one of those universal objects that I have seen in
every country I have visited. It follows humans wherever they go like a footprint or shadow The human presence is as much alive in the painting representation of a bike as it would be in one of an actual human.
This is it! This is one of his paintings, in the flesh!
And thats one of the most interesting aspects of his work to me: the complete lack of actual humans. Never do you see a figure, but you see their traces, their environments. Cody seems to present us with the context that humans live within, without making use of the actual figure. To Cody, the shadow of human existence is far more interesting than the human itself.
Its in these seemingly empty spaces that his current body of work began to grow. Codys new series, VOIDS, looks deep into those lacks, those vacant areas. As with all of Codys work, the images of places, devoid of people, somehow still manages to scream of humanity. Cody is exploring the ideas of voids, and how humans question, explore, test, and long to fill them.
And after speaking with Cody and seeing his paintings up close, I, for one, cant wait to see what he comes up with.
Cherished Objects.Influences, memories, necessities, habits. Everyone has a trail of physical objects that hint at the life behind them. These are some of Codys.A memory of a quiet trip to the East coast, Delta blues that inspired a painting in his Voids series, explorations of his familys past, cherished reads, wornout brushes and books, and, of course, caffeine.
Downstream (58 x 43)
Black Bird Crow (58 x 43)
Time (72 x 53)
And now you know.Youre all caught up, and now to the present. Codys latest series is VOIDS
VOIDSWe question, explore, test, and long to fill them.
Cody explores the idea of voids, found in humans, found in places, found in cities and nature alike. What does a void look like?
During the past year Cody returned to his home region of Niagara. This move triggered visual memories that subconsciously bled into his paintings forming the bases of VOIDS. Cody views this series as an exploration of his visual past, and its influence on the future.
VOIDS will be shown at The Brockton Collective (442 Dufferin St., Toronto) April 10-14, 2014. Opening reception Friday April 11th, 8:00pm.
Credits.Produced by Go Home Print
Creative Team:Rhodi Ilidou (Design)Emma Sharpe (Copywriting & Photography)
Editors:Emma SharpeShanley Maguire Thanks to: Cherise Smith the Brockton Collective
Produced by Go Home Print in Toronto, Canada. Contents of this book 2014 Go Home Print, Cody Smith. All rights in the book reserved by Go Home Print
and rights in the works contained in this book reserved by Cody Smith.