Online Screening: Three films by Sarah Smuts-Kennedy
Online Film Screening
8 — 15 September 2021
These three films by Sarah Smuts-Kennedy demonstrate her ongoing investigation into fields of energy, and her process of revealing these fields through art based languages and intuition driven modes of enquiry. This online screening is presented in association with the inclusion of Smuts-Kennedy’s work Joy Field (July 2021), Sunstudio in When, the first phase of When The Dust Settles
In 1976, American Abstract Painter Agnes Martin made a one-off 70 minute hand-held 16mm film called Gabriel centered around a ten year old boy wandering through the mesa near where Martin lived. It was set to the soundtrack of Johann Bach’s Goldberg aria.
Gabriel, Martin claimed, was “about happiness and innocence” and investigated the same themes as her body of work, which was preoccupied with lines on canvas. Never having had the opportunity to encounter Gabriel, Sarah Smuts-Kennedy imagines this film as a framework to consider the connection between languages of geometric abstraction and ways of seeing the world around us.
Beautiful Geometries is a hand held digital film shot in Colin McCahon's garden, where Smuts-Kennedy spent 3 months in residence in 2016 performing a healing for the kauri trees using the November light McCahon referred to as a miracle in the first year he lived there. Beautiful Geometries uses the limitations of the camera lens and Smuts-Kennedy’s hand to journey into space between the fragile planes of representation and abstraction and the complicated and mysterious boundary where light shifts from the metaphysical to inhabit the material world.
Beautiful Geometries was previously shown at Artspace Aotearoa as part of Smuts-Kennedy’s solo exhibition Frequency of the Earth, 18 May — 8 July 2017.
11 minutes 24 seconds
Like Beautiful Geometries, Violet Light is an outcome of Smuts-Kennedy’s 2016 McCahon House Artists’ Residency and takes as provocation the ‘miraculous’ November light Colin McCahon observed as a phenomenon unique to the Waitākare ranges. During her residency, Smuts-Kennedy worked with this light as a sculptural material to perform an action-based performance called Awake, which is documented in this film. This involved a vedic fire procedure called agnihotra.
With the residual ash from the procedure she made a healing tree paste which she applied to seven kauri trees on site suffering from Kauri dieback. These trees, and the sunlight present in 1958 functioned as powerful motifs for McCahon’s work The Wake. Awake was Smuts-Kennedy’s attempt to recalibrate the energy onsite in service to these trees and to embrace anew the structures that McCahon used to develop his capacity to see beyond the visible realms of the material world.
Sometimes just touching the earth is enough
Sometimes just touching the earth is enough is a visual poem about the potential of a ‘garden’ to heal. It was originally commissioned for Artweek 2019 and screened in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland's Aotea Square.
This portrait of a landscape shot over the month of September in 2019 is of Auckland’s inner-city urban farm OMG (Organic Market Garden) located at 257 Symonds Street. In the first 6 months of 2019, the For the Love of Bees community sequestered over 10 tonnes of carbon via photosynthesis and composting on 310 square meters of garden growing beds. In less than a year this site was producing enough nutrient dense food to sell to its local community to support the living wage of their farmers.
This is Smuts-Kennedy’s second portrait of a garden, the first being Beautiful Geometries. Slowly moving in and out of focus over an hour Sometimes just touching the earth is enough invites the viewer to pause, slow down and allow the colour-fields of light to wash over them. It is Smuts-Kennedy’s hope that watching this film might leave the viewer feeling restored in a way that being close to nature can.
About Sarah Smuts-Kennedy:
Sarah Smuts-Kennedy is a New Zealand born and based artist, and an MFA graduate of the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland 2012.
Sarah’s biodynamic, permaculture teaching garden, 45 minutes north of Auckland, functions as a central axis for her research. She was the McCahon House Artist in Residence September — December in 2016. Her works are housed in private and public collections in both Australia and New Zealand. Recent solo exhibitions include Energy in Quiescence at Sophie Gannon Gallery (2019), Light Language at Te Uru (2017), and Frequency of the Earth at Artspace Aotearoa (2017). Her social sculptural commission For the Love of Bees (2016-ongoing) has triggered a resurgence of regenerative organic urban farms and community compost hubs across Aotearoa New Zealand. She continues to do visioning, environmental advocacy and educational work for this platform.
A solo exhibition of oil pastel works by Sarah Smuts-Kennedy, Life Drawing - Joy Field, is opening at Sumer, Tauranga on 29 September and will run until 6 November.
Sarah Smuts-Kennedy at Artspace Aotearoa
Frequency of the Earth (solo), 18 May — 8 July 2017
Frequency of the Earth was a solo exhibition by Sarah Smuts-Kennedy exhibited within the framework of Singular Pluralities ∞ Plural Singularities, an initiative established in 2015 that presented multiple solo exhibitions simultaneously in different parts of the gallery. Frequency of the Earth occurred alongside the exhibitions Coconuts That Grew From Concrete by Yuki Kihara and te huka o te tai by Shannon Te Ao.