top of page
Uitstalling Kube

Lionel Smit

July 2 - October 1, 2023


Smit’s solo exhibition - Veil -showcases his masterful fusion between the use of Classical art techniques and a profound exploration of the hidden aspects of our existence. The theme represents the veiled - the unseen world that exists just beyond the grasp of our physical senses.


Featuring a new series of oil paintings and a collection of bronze sculptures, the show exemplifies Smit's mastery in translating his artistic vision across various mediums and offers a harmonious dialogue between painting and sculpture.



Lionel Smit is one of South Africa’s most prolific and exalted artists. His artistic diversity is pursued through a variety of mediums and he is best known for his contemporary portraiture. His art is defined by a deeply rooted symbiotic relationship between sculpture and painting. Today, each of Lionel Smit’s works offers us an entry point into the variety and richness that lies beneath every face we encounter in life, whether applied in bronze or paint. The blending of techniques across genres is a display of Smit’s work in multiple media, all bearing a visible and tangible overlap. 

Lionel Smit was born in 1982 in Pretoria, South Africa. Smit’s work has been the subject of several solo exhibitions, his painting Kholiswa has been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London receiving the Viewer’s Choice Award. Collections including his works vary from Standard Chartered Bank to Laurence Graff Art Collection and his painting has been featured on the cover of Christie’s Auction Catalogue.

Reveil #1 - 2023, oil on linen, 190x150cm

Reveil #2 - 2023, oil on linen, 190x150cm

For Sale

Commune - 2023, oil on linen, 80x80cm

Revealed -2023, oil on linen, 80x80cm

Fold - 2023, oil on linen, 150x150cm

Unfold - 2023, oil on linen, 150x150cm

Interrupted Shapes - 2023, oil on linen, 223x295cm - Consists of 11 panels of 60x60cm each

Nimbus - 2023, oil on linen, 80x80cm

Concealed Shape - 2023, oil on linen, 170x230cm

Boundary - 2023, oil on linen, 290x600cm

UIT_LS_Veil - 18_edited.jpg

Collide - 2022, Bronze, Edition 3 of 8, 31x26x35cm
Base plate: 20x20cm

Calm State - 2022, Bronze, Edition 1 of 12, 43x32x20cm
Base plate: 20x20cm

Glaring Form - 2022, Bronze, Edition 1 of 8, 116x80x65cm
Base plate: 55x55cm

Composition #1 - 2022, Bronze, Edition 4 of 8, 54x48x36cm

Base plate: 32x32cm

Shroud #1 - 023, Bronze, Edition 1 of 3, 101x61x41cm
Base plate: 40x40cm

Shroud #2 - 2023, Bronze, Edition 1 of 3, 86x60x40cm
Base plate: 40x40cm

Shroud #3 - 2023, Bronze, Edition 1 of 3, 99x61x40cm
Base plate: 40x40cm

Shroud #4 - 2023, Bronze, Edition 1 of 3, 93x63x40cm
Base plate: 40x40cm

Shroud #5 - 2023, Bronze, Edition 1 of 3, 91x59x41cm
Base plate: 40x40cm

Shroud #6 - 2023, Bronze, Edition 1 of 3, 100x59x46cm
Base plate: 40x40cm

Shrouded Intimacy 

Essay by Prof Ernst van der Wal, Department of Visual Arts, Stellenbosch University

In gentle folds, shimmering creases and billowing sweeps, we see the body swathed in layers of lush fabric. The veil – an article of clothing that is steeped in historical significance – is used by Smit to contemplate ways in which the human body is revered, admired and protected. 


As counterfoil to earlier projects in which Smit explored themes ranging from exposure to the contemporary consumption of manipulated images, Veil showcases a body of work in which he returns to some of his earlier artistic roots and sources of inspiration. Reference is made to the work of Caravaggio and Titian, who used veils to examine and question some of the religious ideas held at the time. Smit plays with the symbolic suppleness that veils have long offered such artists – veils cover, protect and disguise but, in turn, can also be used to suggest, intimate and reveal. We also see allusions to the modelli or cartoons produced by Raphael, who used rough oil sketches to plan and prepare for his larger work. Smit strategically harnesses such stylistic references to acknowledge the richness of the art historical canon from which he continues to draw. Like overlapping veils, we encounter different histories and practices layered over one another.

n some of his paintings, we see nebulous clouds and dramatic lighting mirroring the theatrical effect of the veil. His sculptural work picks up on some of these qualities with various shapes and textures carefully layered so as to create the illusion of a face in flux. Each of the carefully modulated figures carries their likeness in idiosyncratic traces and marks, with quiet, pensive faces emerging in strips, circles and smudges.

As Paul Hills maintains, shrouds and veils carry sacral connotations that endure within more contemporary environments. Acting as a membrane between different worlds, veils hint at the presence of something or someone that is held in such high regard that some separation is needed to keep the everyday at bay. Veils, Hills contends, are suggestive of intimacy, theatricality and fantasy, and they provide the symbolic material with which we tell stories about our own desires. Veils form part of “a visual culture of performance [and] spectatorship,” as they are “worn, touched, given in dowries, stored in chests, paraded on the person or separated from the body” (Hills 2006: 780). Especially in a European context, customs of veiling are largely associated with ritualised performances of covering and uncovering, disguise and revelation. In this way, veils facilitate movement between states of concealment and exposure. As much as they hide and shield, veils also ask to be seen, touched, and sometimes even lifted.

Sources cited: Paul Hills, 2006. ‘Titian’s Veils’, in Art History. Volume 29, Issue 5.

bottom of page