Helmut Smits describes himself as a multi-disciplinary visual artist and embraces the full vagueness of this term – not limiting himself to one medium means he’s constantly changing things up, working on a myriad of varying scale projects from furniture and product design to conceptual sculptures and public installations. Since he was last posted, he’s come up with a whole heap of new stuff – as per usual clever observations, commentaries, visual puns, trickery and experiments which not only disrupt our assumptions of objects but assign them new meanings. We caught up with him to talk process.
There’s a sense of playfulness and fun to his art, but he concedes that the working process isn’t always so carefree – it’s not without some artist angst.
“It can be quite a struggle. I believe that every situation, thought or object carries one or more good artworks in itself, so each time it’s a challenge to find that right idea. Even when I already said no to a show or assignment it keeps sticking in my mind. It’s a good thing that it works that way for me, but it also consumes much of my time. "
His art demonstrates a sharp eye for the minute detail in everyday objects and interesting/humorous happenstance, suggesting he is constantly looking, watching and note-taking. “The best ideas seem to just come at any given moment but I believe they only come when you are in the right state of mind and your brain is working on them without you knowing.”
But of course, as with all creatives, he acknowledges you can’t wait for an idea to hit you on the head and it requires discipline: “mostly just sitting behind my sketchbooks and forcing myself.”
The strength of his portfolio comes from the frank, direct statements he makes. He sidesteps the conceptual art quagmire, which tends to leave people feeling like they’re not quite getting it. His approach, straightforward and honest, is refreshing. “I like working fast so the ideas that are most simple I enjoy doing most.”
Smits’ sculptural pieces are often temporary – created and then captured to exist through the documentation. I wanted to know what happens to the works afterwards and liked the notion of reincarnation in his reply: “I store them, sell them, recycle the materials or just throw them away. In case of the Football Stadium for example the fruit was given to the homeless after the show, the stadium was destroyed and thrown away.”
And, in true Hemut Smits style, he’s turning his hand to something completely new in the coming months.
“Me, my girlfriend and our two kids are going to live in a former school building where 14 other artists also work and live. All the spaces are casco yielded so we have to build in everything ourselves, a lot of work but also a lot of fun.”
No doubt, it will be another outlet and opportunity to creatively play.