By Katy Cowan
Visual artist Nick Smith returns to London’s Lawrence Alkin Gallery this month with a new body of work inspired by erotic literature. Marking 400 years since Shakespeare’s death, Paramour employs Nick Smith’s signature ‘colour-chip’ methodology – creating his own paint swatches – to combine modern nudes with excerpts from the Bards’ sonnets and plays.
As well as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Venus and Adonis, the works feature racy text from works by DH Lawrence, John Cleland, EM Berens and Sarah Walters. Exploring lust, love and appreciation of the female form, Paramour brings classic literature to the modern conscience, telling stories of illicit love through evocative imagery.
The exhibition will show 28 original artworks, including 10 suggestive nudes. Smith explains his move into erotica began in the synonymy with his colour-chip designs and pixels within photography and computer screens. He said: “Since the days of dial up, when images loaded pixel by pixel and you’d have to wait for the image to slowly form, I was fascinated with how much information was needed to recognise an image. Even with very little detail and viewed from the corner of the eye, it’s possible to see just as much, sometimes more, than when you look at an image head on. Essentially it began as a sort of personal experiment.”
By incorporating the works of literary greats within Paramour, Smith creates a bridge between his last show, which paid homage to iconic masterpieces of the art world. However, unlike previous works, Smith’s process has evolved with images being heavily dictated by the content and form of the chosen excerpt of poetry or prose. The meter of a Shakespeare sonnet will inform the size and shape of the image, with a 140-word poem resulting in an artwork made up of 140 colour chips.
Smith explains: “I’ll start with an idea of both the text and the image I want to use, but say I choose an excerpt of 551 words, that will mean I have to create an image made up of 19 x 29 colour chips. Some images will work, some won’t; there’s a bit of alchemy involved and that’s all part of the process. The eureka moment comes when I find the image and text that works together and only then can I start creating it.”
Paramour runs from Friday 18 March to Saturday 16 April at Lawrence Alkin Gallery.