bronze and steel - 18.5" x 9"
P. Roch Smith’s work centres on the creativity of play, equilibrium and disequilibrium, and how memories are constructed and held in place - a geography of memory. Smith presents work in which the mass produced (plastic army figures – model kits - tools) are merged with the organic (tree branches, sisal twine and yarn). The figures are unified by bronze casting – fixing their hybridity in both a metaphoric and material manner. The relational nature of value is examined as the tiny scale of the bronze figures is the antithesis of monumentality usually associated with bronze as a sculptural material. While bronze casting normally speaks to permanence and the epic, the scale of these works creates a form of intimacy.
Play has been theorized as a liminal space – occupying both the real and the imagined simultaneously. It is within this topography that Smith tries to point to certain aspects of the human condition. Does replacing the guns on toys with branches change the essential meaning of the situation? Is it absurd? Can a small figure evoke a sympathetic response or reaction?
We manufacture toys with the intention of enabling children to play and the assumption is that this play is free, unencumbered and not contingent. Pulling back, however, it may be argued that the inherent structure of the toy itself echoes strictly adult concerns. Toys and play easily normalize certain ideas about one’s place in the greater scheme of things. Thankfully, children have also long subverted these rigid narrative structures. The altering of toys – drawing tattoos on a doll or shaving the “life-like” hair off of a GI Joe figure – is an aspirational act and speaks to claiming new narratives.
As a maker, Smith maintains this drive to construct and model objects with a sense of playfulness. Ideally, the works are at turns humorous but also manage to evoke a pathos associated with labour, work and the monumentality of mundane tasks. The figures carry weight in both a literal and figurative manner beyond what should be their actual capacity. The scale of the works are important for their small-scale for they invite both a broad and intimate viewing. Viewing the work one enters a space of inspection – of being a giant in a land that is off-kilter – witness to a precarious balance.