Close Encounters | A group exhibition

Wed, July 4, 2018 to Mon, July 30, 2018

SMITH proudly presents Close Encounters, a group show featuring 22 artists, that explores intimacy and its themes.

Intimacy is too often confined to matters of love; yet the word belongs more to trust, to faith. It denotes an act of revelation found in the simple gesture of sharing; bringing that which was previously hidden out from the shadows and into the light. In this exhibition, the artworks chosen explore intimacy in both their content and their form. They touch on universal themes – like birth and love and death – but also on other more singular intimacies; personal histories, dreams and desires. The works reflect on self-intimacy, experienced in solitude, and the intimacy shared between us, be it romantic or platonic, familial or fleeting. There is, too, intimacy of familiar spaces, spaces we inhabit in both the world and in our minds. And then, there is the intimacy of objects, and our relationships to them; a cherished photograph, clothes left lying on the floor, a coffee half drunk, now gone cold, a letter hidden in a bottom drawer. And always an implied subject, who has held and touched these objects, so that each becomes a metonym for something, or someone, else.

Nabeeha Mohamed’s still life, Cigarette Concerto, shows a simple yet suggestive arrangement of objects – a table top with an ashtray and two roses – drawn in vivid oil and charcoal. One cigarette remains unlit, balanced on the ashtray’s edge, as if waiting for an absent figure to return; waiting to be held between lips and fingers.

Olivié Keck, Daniel Nel and Banele Khoza offer us a voyeuristic view into private scenes: a woman asleep, a spreading bloodstain between her legs; two figures in a bedroom, one dressing or undressing, the other lying down; a naked man bending forward to hold his foot, an image of Spinario pulling out the thorn between his toes. None of the figures appear to notice us, absorbed in their own worlds and insensible to ours. From this vantage, we become privileged viewers; seeing yet unseen.

Considering notions of sexuality and sensuality, Strauss Louw’s hand-printed photographic montages, Boy in Pool and Creepy-Noodle, are dreamlike in quality, fractured and unclear. Both montages feature water; that fluid medium so evocative of spiritual cleanliness, which promises to wash away all our most shameful desires, to cool our lust, and to allow us to begin again. The intimacy in Louw’s work, however, extends beyond the image. For him, the gesture of photographing is itself an act of intimacy; the silent communion between the subject and artist shared for only the briefest moment.

Where Louw finds vulnerability in his process, Jeanne Gaigher and Claire Johnson find it in their mediums. Johnson’s work on paper, Self Portrait, has been left unframed and is simply tacked to the wall, exposed without wood and glass to separate and contain it. Gaigher’s Happy Together I appears similarly fragile; transparent and insubstantial. Painted on fine scrim, the work brings to mind bedroom curtains drawn closed, the drapes of an underskirt, the folds of a blouse; the fabrics that conceal our most private spaces.

From bedroom scenes to scenes of violence, from subject to substrate, and then through scale, the theme of intimacy follows disparate threads. Yet the works exhibited all share the same vulnerability. Something previously hidden is revealed; a secret spoken aloud, a memory described, a dark dream recalled. Such is intimacy, a word bound not to love, nor to the erotic. But rather, a word that denotes a certain knowledge, a privileged insight into the private life of another - another figure, another object, another place. Where some intimacies are lasting, others are only momentary; where some are apparent, others are not. “Is the intimacy felt at the cinema,” the artist Michaela Younge asks, “an intimacy shared with the strangers in the darkness, or an intimacy with the darkness itself?”

Close Encounters will run from 4 - 28 July 2018. For press enquiries and to request the long format essay on the show, please contact Jana Terblanche at