- Stefan Smit
- Chris Valentine
Written on a wall in the ancient city of Pompeii are lines of graffiti which read:
“Nothing can last forever / Once the sun has shone, it returns beneath the sea. / The moon, once full, eventually wanes. / The violence of the winds often turns into a light breeze”.
While the words themselves speak of transience, their very age (Pompeii was buried under ash more than 1,900 years ago) speaks of the resilience of human experience, as does their continuing present-day relevance.
They are reminiscent of a line from a recent song about the Roman city, which sparked the idea for Johannesburg artists Stefan Smit and Chris Valentine’s exhibition of portraits, ‘Imprint | Blueprint’:
“A shadow cast upon the wall / A silhouette and nothing more / That’s all that’s left behind”.
Inspired as much by graffiti - both an ancient mode of human expression and a part of contemporary urban culture - the paintings use bold brushstrokes and bold characters to question whether we follow the blueprints society sets out for us, or leave our own individual imprints on the world around us.
Graffiti is rendered on the walls behind the subjects in Smit and Valentine’s works, flowing into their hair and clothes. These forms serve as markers for identity and impermanence, underlined by the ephemeral shadows and youth of the painted women and men.
Like the contradictory fragility of the Pompeian graffiti, the works in ‘Imprint | Blueprint’ inspire us to think of our own transience and remind us of our strength.