Jesse Leroy Smith
Family is a central theme of my work, an ever-evolving set of relationships in which emotion, desire and identity are tangible, fluid and vivid. I collate scrapbooks in which friends, family and heroes montage with film stills, costume and architecture alongside creatures and landscapes from my travels. They include contributions from my children and drawings form religious iconography and ancient art. These collections of collaged, dreamlike, juxtaposed memories most often form the basis of my drawings and paintings.
Painting for me can be both refined and raw, quiet and raucous. It connects personal experiences with the impact of art history. The spontaneous potential of paint, its sensuality and sense of touch are ideal ways to trick my consciousness. Collaboration, curating, travelling and pseudonym artists have all allowed film, installation, performance and print making to influence my paintings.
Most recently these veer between either immersive frieze’s that interact with site specific venues to solitary portraits called ‘Descendants’. I choose these individuals as their life experiences embody themes around trauma, vulnerability and solace. During their painting they often adopt other personas, other friends, family or imagined characters. As a series they form a collective portrait based on the legacies we resist or embrace.
Jesse Leroy Smith was born in London 1966. He studied Fine Art at Norwich School of Art and Painting at the Royal Academy Schools in 1989 -92.
He exhibits internationally and travels widely for art residencies and research. A recent residency in Berlin concluded with solo show at Wesehalle Gallery there and his work is particularly shaped by extensive travels in Greece culminating with a residency in Crete in 2022.
He curates art projects in public sites and abandoned buildings that bring together diverse artists, performers and communities to reimagine these venues and their future use. Most recently ‘Unstable Monuments’ In Bristol and ‘Rapture’ in Brighton have promoted a wealth of emerging talent alongside artists with international reputations.
He leads a mentoring programme for emerging artists at Newlyn School of Art, Cornwall and he has a studio there and in Brighton where he lives.