Meet: Wendy Smith
Wendy Smith is an artist, lecturer and horticulturist that graduated from BA (Hons) Fine Art Sculpture at Central Saint Martins in 1998.
We caught up with Wendy to find out more about her life and career since graduation.
What are your memories of life at UAL?
I was there at a very transformative time for the College, as I was a student towards the tail end of the time when Fine Art was still offered as individual elements – in my case Sculpture.
We were very much left to our own devices and everyone was encouraged to do their own thing. We had to put on a lot of exhibitions which has stood me in good stead ever since. Now I am not fearful of putting on a show, whereas friends of mine that trained elsewhere tend to be more reluctant.
I remember my first year as being the most productive. I was very much in to producing large sculptural pieces. At that time the fashion within art was becoming more conceptual – but I took a stand against this and continued to use my favoured resources for sculpting which were plastic and found materials. I was always very keen to use welding on my sculptures, and when I eventually learnt it became very handy as I went on to live in a houseboat for a number of years.
I always remember Tony Hayward as being an excellent tutor – but mostly I taught myself.
You have worked in India many times since graduating. How did this come about?
I have always been fascinated by Asia, and in 2005 I undertook a creative research project at the Sanskriti Foundation in New Delhi. The project explored Indian culture, materials, textiles, pattern and colour. As part of this I also organised workshops with the ‘Mobile Creche’ organisation for underprivileged children.
Then in 2008 I received funding from the Arts Council to return to the Foundation for a self-initiated project to produce a body of artwork as a response to street life in Delhi. As part of this I worked with women in the micro-textile industries, which finalised with an exhibition in India in April 2008. I also organised workshops with the ‘HOPE’ project for underprivileged children. The project concluded with exhibitions at the British High Commissioner’s Residence, New Delhi, India and the the opportunity to produce two large planting plans for the High Commission garden. That was definitely the proudest moment of my career so far.
Finally, in 2011 I returned to India for a Blue House Residency in Karnataka. This was a self-initiated residency program designed to explore the ritual and pattern of daily life in the local fishing village and the visiting pilgrims who offer their blessings to the sea. The residency concluded with an exhibition at Seaflowers in Rochester, Kent.
I find Asia to be really inspirational and the vibrant colour palette of India has influenced my work ever since. I intend to return to India very soon.
What are you up to at the moment?
At the moment I am really enjoying teaching at the University of Greenwich. I like to expose my students to different approaches and experimental studio practices. I also think it’s important to take them on lots of gallery visits. I always try to be as supportive as I can.
My move from my houseboat to a house in Hastings has changed my work. When I lived on the boat I was making lots of portable sculptures, but now I do a lot of outdoor landscape painting. Hastings is a real centre for artists now – lots of people are moving there, and of course the Jerwood Gallery is based there, which is a fantastic gallery. My plan for the future is simply to have more exhibits abroad and to make sure my work is featured at more international art fairs. There is a better market for paintings at the moment, so I will continue to paint as much as possible.