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Smuts is a South African artist who was born in Bloemfontein, 1951 and grew up in the Free State where open space and skies dominates one's presence. She obtained her BA (Fine Art) degree from the Michaelis School of Fine Art in 1972 and completed her honours at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg. Post-graduate studies were completed at the Academie voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent in 1976. Smuts have been involved in a wide range of art activities such as 13 years of teaching (this includes being a lecturer in printmaking at the University of Stellenbosch from 1981-88), running a community art program, being the co-founder of a discussion group, presenting and coordinating a series of workshops in her studio, various art collaborations, attending art retreats and mounting exhibitions.
Smuts admits that she loves drawing, because of the fact that it “allows me to investigate the complexity of seeing”. Another interest is the medium of etching as she explains “for its tangibility and the intensity of the printed black and white”, with this medium one is allowed to experiment and explore greatly. Smuts is keen on experimenting which lately steered her towards the development of three-dimensional works. It is the experimenting and working with her choice of materials that gradually result in “new connections and offer ways of portraying intuitions in a concrete manner” she claims.
Being actively engaged with her surroundings and political awareness, Smuts work in the 1980s and early 1990s reflected a concern with the human condition, mainly because of the overwhelming political tension within the Apartheid era.
She says her printmaking creations were exclusively in black and white, and in sculpture, she used cast cement and cast metals to produce travelling landscapes. After 1994 she turned towards the natural world, making drawings in situ, which she started to translate into printmaking techniques by exploring lithography, serigraphy and hand-coloured prints. Smuts completed various commissions for University and private collections within this era. In 2000 she participated in the Caversham Centre for Artists and Writers, Hourglass 2000 International Residency Program, with a result exhibition shown in Atlanta, USA during 2001.
The theme and symbolism of sound and silence are also evident in Smuts creations. She says that recently “the result of an investigation into the visualization of sound, my interest in the structures of nature and the interconnectedness between things has deepened”. The source material that she uses as inspiration, reference and guidance are gained from sonar images of the ocean floor and vibration patterns produced by sound waves. Being active within collaborations and interacting with people from different disciplines creates the creative reality because of the interaction with the natural world.
South African (IZIKO) National Gallery (Cape Town)
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Durban Art Gallery
University of Cape Town
University of Stellenbosch
University of the Orange Free State