ANJ SMITH

DRIFTING HABITATIONS

9 November 2023 – 13 January 2024

New York, 22nd Street

British artist Anj Smith debuts work from her latest series of paintings in ‘Drifting Habitations,’ her first New York solo exhibition in nearly a decade. Known for intimate, intricately rendered canvases that explore themes of identity, eroticism, anxiety and ecology, Smith’s new work takes on a larger scale to explore notions of atopia, a concept beautifully elucidated by Roland Barthes as ‘drifting habitations,’ through subverting the genre of the female nude.

Explore the exhibition

Set within ecologically devastated landscapes, Smith’s gorgeous but unsettling canvases challenge the notion of fixed locations and invite us to consider the fluidity of our experiences and perceptions of the world. Delving into the complex relationship between self and space, Smith’s luminous works question the very nature of our connections to the environments we inhabit.

Anj Smith: In the Studio

A first look at an exceptional new series of paintings by Anj Smith, inside artist’s London studio ahead of her solo exhibition at our New York gallery.

But Tell it Slant

The pose of the figure in ‘But Tell it Slant’ (2023) calls to mind the famous goddess central to Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ (1485–86). In contrast to Botticelli’s celebration of love and beauty, Smith’s painting refuses to offer a clear narrative; its title refers to another familiar masterpiece of the past, Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘Tell All the Truth,’ wherein the reader is advised to tell the truth, but obliquely and incrementally. Smith’s painting exemplifies her interest in playing with ideas of mimicry, veiling and obfuscation, accounting for her tactic of leaving sections of composition more legible than others. The viewer can only ‘read’ the wealth of detail in her work––and thereby discover what is being revealed, what is being withheld––when the eye and brain are slowed, submitting to time.

Genre, perspective, time and gravity are fluid and unpredictable throughout Smith’s paintings, reflecting the uncertainties many are experiencing in this current moment––whether political, cultural or environmental. Thus, some of the large-scale landscape paintings on view in the exhibition, while devoid of human figures, are also portraits: profiles of ecological transition and the rewilding of the natural world.

INTERMITTENCE

When seen from a distance, ‘Intermittence’ (2022) appears as a straightforward seascape, bleak and barren aside from a bright neon light reaching across the tempestuous sky. But as the viewer gazes into this work, details slowly emerge suggesting different geological epochs have left their mark on this place over many eras. Here, the sea is not a fluid body; instead, it is formed from plates of ice precariously layered like the tiles of an abandoned roof, having frozen and thawed repeatedly. Small marsupials leap and climb across newly formed vegetation, inhabiting an environment that was never meant for them. What appeared at first glance to be a vibrant ribbon of light is not a natural phenomenon but unfurls as a distress signal from far off in the distance, somewhere far beyond the horizon, a surviving remnant of human life.

11 November 2023, 3:00 pm EST

In Conversation: Anj Smith & Dr. Orna Guralnik on ‘Drifting Habitations’

New York, 22nd Street & Via Livestream

On the occasion of artist Anj Smith’s exhibition ‘Anj Smith. Drifting Habitations,’ her first in New York in nearly ten years, and celebrating the release of Hauser & Wirth Publishers’ new book accompanying the exhibition, please join us for a talk with the artist and renowned psychologist Dr. Orna Guralnik.

On View at New York, 22nd Street

‘ANJ SMITH. DRIFTING HABITATIONS’ is on view now through 13 January 2024 at Hauser & Wirth New York, 22nd Street. Please visit our location page to plan your visit.

About the Artist

Anj Smith

Anj Smith’s work negotiates the space between the genres of portraiture, landscape, and still-life. In her interrogation and celebration of the medium of painting, alluring flora and fauna—from vines, flowers, and ivy to ambiguous creatures and human figures—populate ecologically devastated landscapes. Refusing fast consumption, her work explores issues of gender, ecology, anxiety, and eroticism. 

Current Exhibitions