Malcolm Smith

Copyright 2007-2012
Built with Indexhibit

Modern Times
Malcolm Smith

Newsagency Gallery
14 November - 7 December 2014

The Modern world was full of promise. Modern people were bright, optimistic and confident; secure in the knowledge that science was making life easier, that people were good, that fairness would prevail and that The Truth was within our grasp. When Modern Times ended, most people continued on like nothing had happened. It seemed like the best thing to do, given the circumstances.

The statement above was written retrospectively, in an attempt to reconcile the many thoughts that ran through my head in the progress of creating each series in this exhibition. These images were all printed on days off from my usual busy schedule at Krack Studio in Yogyakarta. They are in-between works – images I made on the spur of moment when I had a spare couple of days, or when we had an unused roll of paper, or there were some particularly tasty colours left over from a project we’d been working on. I didn't labor over them or overthink them, and as a result they have a lightness about them that I like.

All Eyes On You

I experimented with all sorts of eyes before I settled on these ones. I tried old eyes, eyes with glasses, smiley eyes, sad eyes, crazy eyes… Eyelashes were too telling. Lidless eyes weren’t human. The eyes I finally printed are disinterested, but nonetheless discerning. I find them kind of unsettling. They suggest an intelligence that is bigger than us, and not necessarily a benevolent one. They monitor us silently, their intentions unknown and unknowable.

The Telephone Book

Back in the old days, the common perception was that The Telephone was invented to make our lives easier. These days we know better, The Telephone has spread its copper and optical fibre tentacles across the planet. It has freed itself even from the need for physical infrastructure. Today it travels silently and invisibly through the air, effortlessly reaching satellites in outer space then instantly relaying its signals to the other side of the planet. The Telephone has quietly, but assuredly, taken over our lives, our planet, and the universe beyond.
These images began as a series of collages I made from cutting up an old telecommunications yearbook from the early 80’s. Then hunting down other old telecoms manuals and advertisements. Looking back through those old materials its possible to see how The Telephone even back then had a will of its own.


I love airconditioners. I regularly make pictures of them. When I can’t think of anything else to draw, I draw airconditioners. Not the fancy, streamlined white component that blows air into our bedrooms, but the bulky, slightly rusting, constantly dripping unit that does the actual work but that is usually screwed to a wall in the back of the house where hopefully nobody will ever have to see it. These aircon units are undesigned, unbranded, unloved… except by me. Even the fact that these airconditioning units are blamed for global warming just adds to their abjection, which for some reason, makes me like them more.

Signature Hair

I have had bad hair since I was a teenager. For me, spending $6 or $60 on a haircut gets the same result: more bad hair. But many of my friends have signature hair; hair that tells the world this person is unique, charming, charismatic and a bit dangerous…
This series of ink drawings were made for the Disana project in Yogyakarta last December, in which artists were invited to make a work about the city they lived in and its people. In barbershops in Yogya there are always posters of men’s hairstyles to choose from. Often these posters are quite old, faded to blue, with hairstyles from previous decades, dating back to the 60’s in some barbershops. I set myself the task of drawing 100 hairstyles of yogya – an archaeology of men’s hair. I became fascinated with the subjects of these photographs, who are not always models, often they are just previous customers looking bewildered or slightly embarrassed. As I drew each portrait I’d wonder who they were back then, where they are now, and how their lives turned out.

Thankyou to everyone who supported me in various ways for this exhibition.
In particular:

Bess O’Malley
Rudi Hermawan
Prihatmoko Moki
Rob Smith
Kieran Sanderson
Trent and Vince
Mas Ribut

Newsagency Gallery