Anj Smith
A Willow Grows Aslant the Brook

Anj Smith, False Steward, 2019-20,
oil on linen, 63.4 x 56.3 cm. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Alex Delfanne.

The New Art Gallery Walsall is delighted to present a major solo exhibition by renowned British painter Anj Smith. Comprising of 23 paintings and prints, the show includes new and recent works, some seen for the first time in Walsall.


This is the largest presentation of the artist’s work in a UK public gallery to date and offers a rare opportunity to view a significant body of work together.


Painting provides a platform where time, space, gravity and perspective can be shifting and unstable. Within this malleable construct, Smith is endlessly inventive and creative, bringing together diverse and disparate objects  and environments. The familiar and the unfamiliar, the contemporary and the archaic; all interweave to create intense and often psychologically charged works. Rich in detail, colour and texture, the intricacy of these works invites a slowing down and an offer of respite from frenetic consumption.


Each work is conceptually rigorous in its interrogation of the world around us. Drawing together source material ranging from designer fabrics and jewellery to the natural world, from the history of art and literature to popular culture, every detail is carefully selected and positioned to create multiple, fragmented and complex narratives. These seductively complex paintings draw us in, challenging assumptions and rejecting easy categorisation.


The title of the exhibition references Shakespeare’s Hamlet and specifically the site of Ophelia’s retreat and eventual death. Despite being silent or off-stage for much of the play, Ophelia’s agency is crucial. For the artist, Ophelia has come to epitomise a type of silencing, in her thwarted attempts to be heard. She is the inspiration for the painting False Steward. The brook represents a linear narrative, narrow and shallow and incapable of power or depth, whilst the willow, huge in scale with shifting foliage, is unpredictable, having the capacity to change direction.  The willow, intersecting the brook, suggests the importance of counter-narratives.


The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication with essays by Joost Joustra and Zoé Whitley.


Related events


In Conversation: Anj Smith and Joost Joustra

Thursday 2 September, 5.30pm for 6pm start, Floor 3


This event accompanies Anj Smith’s major solo exhibition at The New Art Gallery Walsall (18 May – 5 September 2021). The exhibition comprises new and recent works, many of which can be seen for the first time in Walsall.  Featuring paintings and prints, this is the largest presentation of the artist’s work in a UK public gallery to date and offers a rare opportunity to view a significant body of work together.


The event will conclude with an open Q&A and will be recorded.


£3 + Booking fee.  To book your place, go to:

or call the Gallery’s Reception Desk on 01922 654400.


Anj Smith is one of the UK’s leading contemporary artists. Born in 1978 in Kent, England, Anj Smith studied at Slade School of Fine Art and at Goldsmiths College in London. Smith has exhibited internationally at museums and galleries such as Mostyn, Llandudno, Wales; Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere, Finland; Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen, Germany; Fondazione Stelline, Milan, Italy; Museum Arnhem, Arnhem, Netherlands; The Bluecoat, Liverpool, UK; Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville TN; Hudson Valley Centre for Contemporary Art, Peekskill NY; Galerie Isa, Mumbai, India; La Maison Rouge, Paris, France, and Me Collector’s Room, Berlin, Germany.


Smith’s work is also displayed in the collections of many leading international museums and collections including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK; MOCA The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles CA; DRAF David Roberts Art Foundation, London, UK and the Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere, Finland.


Joost Joustra is The Howard and Roberta Ahmanson Research Curator at the National Gallery and a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Theology & Religious Studies at King’s College London. In 2020, he curated the exhibition Sin at the National Gallery and authored the accompanying book, Sin: The Art of Transgression, exploring how sin has been depicted in art for centuries.



Anj Smith: A Willow Grows Aslant the Brook is accompanied by a publication with essays by Joost Joustra and Zoé Whitley. It is available in the Gallery Shop at a special exhibition price of £20. (Usual price, £25, postage and packaging, £3.99). To order your copy, please contact




In Conversation: Anj Smith with Dr Zoé Whitley

A recording of the in conversation event with Anj Smith and Dr Zoé Whitley which took place online on Tuesday 25 May can be viewed below or via the Gallery’s YouTube channel.


















Filmed interview

Filmed during the installation of the show, artist Anj Smith talks about her new exhibition at The New Art Gallery Walsall.

Duration 4 minutes


















Artist’s exhibition trails for children & young people


The artist has created two brand new trails for children and young people to accompany the exhibition. Hunt for the tiny silver ants, the melting ice lollies and the chocolate-smelling flower!  Download them here:

Exhibition Trail for Children

Exhibition Trail for Young People