Terry Smith: Parallax
University of Southampton
Above: Terry Smith, Caracol, 2011.
Photo by Lisa Blackmore. Courtesy the artist.
Above: Terry Smith, Caracol, 2011.
Photo by Lisa Blackmore. Courtesy the artist.

This exhibition at the John Hansard Gallery brings together seminal works by Terry Smith, a British artist who works consistently under the radar of the mainstream. Most notably, he has undertaken a series of secret and unseen projects, including building interventions during the reconstruction of Tate Modern and the refurbishment of the British Museum. Smith was a winner of the prestigious Paul Hamlyn Artists’ Award in 2008. 


One of the great slow burners in the art world, a solitary but insistent voice, Terry Smith has been creating substantial works on the margins for over two decades. Without romanticising what is a very firmly grounded practice, there is something of the guerrilla action about Smith’s work—ephemeral, quietly subversive and totally committed.


Parallax brings together examples of his eclectic style for the first time, presenting over fifty works, including drawings, photographs, sculpture and film. The exhibition also features the premiere of Caracol, 2011, a video sound installation with twenty-five singers, made in Caracas, Venezuela. In recent years Smith has spent much of his time working on projects in South America and Europe.


Terry Smith’s work has its roots in European and American conceptualism, acknowledging artists such as John Cage, Joseph Beuys and Bruce Nauman, who established a basis from which art can extend into the realm of pure idea while, at the same time, remaining experiential. This approach is at the core of Smith’s ethos. Curator David Thorp comments: “Smith’s practice is firmly located within an historical trajectory. His awareness of this not only informs it but allows him to create a platform on which it can be celebrated. He is the essential experimental artist.”


Terry Smith has been working closely with independent curator David Thorp on the realisation of this exhibition, a working relationship that spans over twenty-five years. Thorp was formerly Curator of GSK Contemporary at the Royal Academy, Curator of Contemporary Projects at the Henry Moore Foundation and Director of the South London Gallery. He was a member of the Turner Prize jury in 2004.


A bilingual publication in English and Spanish has been produced for the exhibition, featuring texts by Stephen Foster (Director, John Hansard Gallery), David Thorp (Curator, Parallax) and Maria Elena Ramos (independent curator and writer, and formerly Director, Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas). The publication is free and copies can be posted on request. In addition, two new limited edition photographic prints are available from the John Hansard Gallery shop: America, 2001 and Slipping, 1995–2011 (Homage to Matta-Clark). Price: 120 GBP unframed, edition of 100. For further information contact the Gallery.


About Terry Smith


Smith began his building interventions within rows of houses due for demolition in Leytonstone, East London in 1994. Refused permission to enter them, Smith gained access illegally and created a series of wall drawings. The project Capital at the British Museum in 1995 was also achieved without official consent. At the invitation of David Thorp in 1996, then Director of the South London Gallery, Smith made a series of interventions at Tate Modern during its reconstruction. Again, he worked in secret for three months and the results were never seen publicly.


Smith has continued his interventions in derelict buildings and museums, primarily showing abroad, most recently in Caracas, where he first exhibited in 1995. The Museo Bellas Artes is the only place in the world where two of his wall cuttings still exist and are on public display. Earlier this year, Smith returned to make a series sonic works in a building in downtown Caracas, as well as three pop-up performances with twenty-five singers in different parts of the city.


Smith is a founder member HumanrightsTV:; co-founder of workinprogress:; and is also about to launch the Experimental Art School:


Terry Smith: Parallax is a John Hansard Gallery exhibition curated with David Thorp, supported by The Henry Moore Foundation.


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January 4, 2012