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.

This exhibition has been delayed and is not currently on display at the Gallery.



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 Dr Joost Joustra and Dr Zoé Whitley.