Camille Smithwick: ‘Ode to the Untruth’ at HOME mcr
Words and photos by Rose Sergent. Featured image curtsey of HOME mcr.
Camille Smithwick is a Manchester based artist and co-organiser of the popular Colouring Club hosted at Common (if you haven’t been before, seriously put one in the diary, they’re so much fun). Her work has regularly been featured in The Skinny and as part of the Open Exchange network for the Royal Exchange. Recognising her work from these and more, it was a real joy to be able to see her art up close.
Smithwick’s work is distinct. The people she draws are beautifully odd and she uses a range of medias including inks, pencil, photography and 3D models. She instills all these methods in the creation of this curious exhibition in the Granada Gallery at HOME mcr.
‘Ode to the Untruth’ is an exploration of Kaspar Hauser, a teenager ‘who seemingly out of nowhere stumbled into Nuremberg in 1828’. Kaspar’s short life was confusing and mostly unknown. He had no memory of who he was, where he was from and because of this, his life was shrouded in mystery. His story is dark and light and Smithwick’s style portrays it beautifully.
The unknown life of Kaspar is explored in 25 unique pieces. The beginning of the exhibition features portraits which echo the rumours that Kaspar was of royal decent. They also give a nod to Kaspar’s only belonging when emerging in Nuremberg – a letter that insisted that he either becomes a cavalry man like his father or they hang him. Smithwick uses coloured pencils to create a contemporary take on a historical style.
Kaspar’s own portrait is the fifth piece. His face is strong and carefully inked and his body is an undefined mass of colour. It’s an interesting contrast. I like that Smithwick uses a range of materials within one piece. Around each of the portraits, is a detailed frame which tells a story too.
The exhibition runs across two floors in HOME, the first which focusses on telling Kaspar’s story reiterating the unknown and ambiguous through some particularly dark images in ink. Smithwick chooses to say more with images instead of words, with the few words she uses being uncertain.
The second floor is mostly made up of photographs of Smithwick’s ceramic models which literally added dimensions to the collection. These figures are often set against a mixed media background. One notably eerie piece called ‘Many Cats are the Death of a Mouse’ features ceramics set against an image of windows turned on their side. It’s stirring and the longer you look at it, the more uncomfortable it becomes.
I don’t want to give everything away because it’s a full experience and there’s PLENTY of time to get over to HOME to give it a good look (seriously, I’m glad I had made time to look at each piece properly). It’s beautiful and shadowy and encourages curiosity from everyone.