• Filling-a-hole

    Helmut Smits: Filling a Hole

  • Rainbow

    Helmut Smits: Rainbow

  • Two-beams-saying-hi

    Helmut Smits: Two Beams Saying HI

  • Dead-pixel-in-google-earth

    Helmut Smits: Dead Pixel in Google Earth

  • Flamma

    Helmut Smits: FLAMMA (A Basic Need)

  • Skirting-board-sunset

    Helmut Smits: Skirting Board Sunset

  • Youtube-staring-at-the-wall

    Helmut Smits: YouTube (Staring at the Wall)

  • Football-stadium

    Helmut Smits: Football Stadium

  • A-crumpled-a4-paper-and-a-snowball

    Helmut Smits: A Crumpled A4 Paper and a Snowball

  • The-end

    Helmut Smits: The End, 4:18 minutes

Product Design

Helmut Smits

Posted by Maya Davies,

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.

Posted by Maya Davies

Maya joined It’s Nice That in 2011 as our first ever events manager as well as writing for the site, in particular about architecture. She left in the summer of 2013.

Most Recent: Art View Archive

  1. List

    Back in 2013 designers Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman launched 40 Days of Dating, where they entered into a seven week relationship with each other to explore the world of romance from a creative perspective.

  2. Main

    Switzerland-based artist Pascale Keung makes delightfully diverse work which is inspired by her chosen country’s stunning natural landscape as often as it is by wild fantasies. This series Muttsee is an example of the former, a collection of images about “a very special place in the Alps of Switzerland” where she goes to fish with her friends from time to time.

  3. List

    Anna Burns is a set designer with a taste for the ambitious. Who could forget her work with Thomas Brown where they created B-Movie inspired installations out of flammable umbrellas? For her latest work Anna has collaborated with Michael Bodiam on a series inspired by nuclear catastrophe and our contradictory attitudes towards it – apocalyptic fear on the one hand and weird fascination on the other.

  4. List

    We’ve already sung the praises of the V&A’s flagship London Design Festival project – Barber Osgerby’s extraordinary reflective installation in the Raphael Cartoons Gallery – but there are some other gems on offer at the spiritual home of the festival.

  5. List

    I have no idea who Mr G.G.Hines is. And yet I am standing surrounded by junk staring at his black leather passport holder. I am transfixed by it; lost in reveries about who he was, where he travelled to and what his handwriting – neat, confident but not fussy – says about him. I am also wondering how his passport came to be here, and the answer to that begins with Dan Tobin Smith.

  6. List

    Three years ago at the London Design Festival, the Bouroullec Brothers transformed the Raphael Cartoons gallery at the V&A by installing a huge textile-covered platform down the centre of the vast room. It became a playful, very human space in the heart of one of London’s most august institutions, and remains one of the most talked-about festival projects of recent years.

  7. Main

    GIFs are usually reserved for that corner of the internet preoccupied with getting a quick laugh out of an easy audience (us included) so it’s surprisingly poignant to see the popular form employed not to show how funny a dog walking on its hind legs can be but to express a more powerful idea. This is exactly what Sofia Niazi has done with her new project Women of WOT. She wanted to utilise the medium to tell the unheard stories of the women forgotten by the War on Terror, but soon found that her project took a unexpected turn.

  8. Main9

    Just when you thought the only time you’d get to see some fruit getting jiggy with each other was the last time you ate a Moam bar, here’s Amelie von Wulffen’s paintings. Amelie’s work is a refreshing, sometimes sinister, sometimes sexual series of water-colour paintings depicting a strange mixture of food and tools interacting with each other as if they were humans – eating ice cream and going to music concerts and the like. As well as reducing mankind down to what it really is – a bunch of ridiculous creatures bumbling around the earth – Amelie’s real success here is bringing dark comedy into the largely unfunny art world, and for that she should be praised.

  9. List

    We’ve long maintained that to really get to know how a creative’s mind works, it’s best to explore their personal work, which often tells you much more than their professional portfolio. Another good example of this comes from London-based identity designer Iancu Barbarasa, who works under the name Iancul, and his terrific new Drawriting project, which “turns thoughts and their letters into visual puzzles.”

  10. Main9

    Co-founders of Dastoli Digital Robert and James were huge fans of Star Wars in the late 1990s, recreating hundreds of images from comics, books and game graphics on Microsoft Paintbrush using the Windows 3.1 operating system. In the run-up to the release of Star Wars Episode VII which will come out on 18 December 2015 they’re releasing an image a day from this seemingly bottomless archive, giving fellow fans a glimpse of their fantastic attention to detail and brilliantly retro colour palette.

  11. List-2

    Anna Valdez is the kind of artist who makes me want to swathe myself and everything around me in layers of tropical prints and geometric patterns and embrace a new sartorial existence as a wannabe art teacher. Her mastery of textiles is so thorough that some of her pieces almost feel like studies, an effect which makes sense considering her academic interests. With a background in anthropology she paints domestic interiors as though they were portraits, with every detail contributing to the overall effect, whether it be house plants, intricately reproduced book covers, woolly jumpers or oriental rugs.

  12. List

    Australian artist Kit Webster is has long been fascinated with the emotional and psychological tricks he can play through the manipulation of sound and light. His new piece Hypercube is a concentric cubic sculpture with a 120-metre LED set-up that can be controlled using specially-created software. The pre-recorded cycles allow Kit to control the viewer’s experience, speeding the cube up to a frenzy and breaking the tension with meditative moments of calm.

  13. Main

    Apologies if this is a slightly dismayed post, but upon thinking I had stumbled across a gem via Nieves’ announcement of some new zines I was excited to be the first to write about Keegan McHargue on It’s Nice That. Alas I was not, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t shout about his brilliance once more.