Meet the artists: Lara Smithson

Meet the artists: Lara Smithson

Lara in the studio. Photo credit: Luana Rigolli.
Lara in the studio. Photo credit: Luana Rigolli.

An interview with Lara Smithson, the Bridget Riley Fellow, in which she speaks about the work she has produced during her residency at the BSR from September 2021–March 2022, ahead of the March Mostra.

You have undertaken filming in the church of San Clemente and in the Museum of Palazzo Barberini. Can you tell us why you chose these sites and how the films sit within your drawing practice?

My drawings are composed of layers and holes, often resembling x-rays. I was drawn to San Clemente because of it’s time structure. As a visitor entering from the 21st century you experience a descent from 12th to the 4th and then the 1st. I wanted to capture the eeriness and how the sound of water carries you through the rooms down to the Mithraic level. In my footage a gloved hand acting as a disembodied voice, beckons and gestures exploring the passages through San Clemente. The glove appears in a drawing I made on first arriving in Rome, titled ‘It is just a means of touching distance’. The hand has left the drawing and ‘touched distance’ connecting the layers of time in the Basilica. When I visited the Palazzo Barberini and walked into the empty Salone Pietro da Cortona, instead of looking at the painted ceiling, I imagined it being the set to enact my costume/drawing the ‘Unnamed Saint’. The film and the drawings inform each other, enter each other. The text I have written for the film is drawn into a new piece ‘Detritus’ as scraps of paper with sections of the text scattered across the drawing.

Below is the text that accompanies the film.

Unnamed Saint

What is this speechless horror?

To return to earth to find your body –

Dismembered

Disembowelled

Decapitated

Scattered

Fragmented

Copied

Cloned

Torn

Apart

Spread so thin

Untraceable

It is lucky that all horror is preverbal because my lips are elsewhere

As for my mouth

My pharynx

Lanryx

Who knows

I am a brain, without its substance

A chemical imbalance

Norepinephrine

Serotonin

Dopamine

Oxytocin

Endorphin

Adrenalin

FLASHBACK

“Your stomach is in a knot”

“Your tongue is tied”

“Or has the cat got it?”

But really

My tooth is set in gold in gilded glass

The corpus drained of fluid

I am dry

Crackling

Scraped bones

Splintering

Fingers pinch them into pockets

Carried away

To…

My body travels in all directions

Will it be like the big bang?

Will I eventually contract?

Implode

Till I swallow myself back in through a mouth that is

Where…

The voice is still somewhere nearby

A ribbon unfurling holds my words

Written, recorded, devoured in minds that live on as whole

In the end we are detritus

We wear away

To live beyond time, restless

in passages filled with dirt turning to dust until they dig down and tear us apart from ourselves to make room for the new

We are everywhere but are reduced to no one

And then I find out I am pickled

A finger in a jar

Labelled in curling scroll

Spiralling DNA coded in computers

I am walking from bone to bone

Organ to organ

But the organs made for me don’t fit

Their terracotta grinds against my flesh till finally the hands that push them in abate

I can’t believe how many legs I had as I hold ten relics attributed to me. Four in Italy, three in France, two in Spain and one in England.

Others whisper there are more elsewhere

Or at least some replicas

Though I am certain I only had two legs

Illumination – illumination –  illumination

If I say it enough, will it be true

Will I be named

Whole?

Film still
Film still

Latest Posts

Latest Posts

LIBRARY & ARCHIVE
A significant legacy: Valerie Scott at the BSR Library
Valerie Scott, former BSR Librarian, retired in August 2021 after 40 years in post. Valerie’s immeasurable contribution to the BSR, its library and readers, is
FINE ARTS
Jo Stockham visits the Venice Biennale
We asked our Ampersand Foundation Fellow, Jo Stockham, for her thoughts following a visit to the 59th Venice Biennale. Below is a visual snapshot of
FINE ARTS
Meet the artists: Etienne Desrosiers
An interview with Etienne Desrosiers, Québec Resident, in which he speaks about the work he has produced during his residency at the BSR from January–March

Search