Sally Smart (born 1960, South Australia) has long been concerned with the feminine identity from both a contemporary and historical perspective. The methods she employs in creating her work, including stitching and sewing, are often traditionally termed as female practices. Utilizing installation spaces in a highly illustrative and theatrical manner, the work employs a visual style that has elements of the cinematic.
Smart has looked closely at dance choreography to see how it might connect to the collage methodologies in her practice: the movement of elements in space, improvisation and rehearsal, and how actions of cutting and assembling might be described and visualized in drawing. She has also investigated choreographers’ drawings - notations and marks used to render, map, define, describe a movement or a sequence of movements or a feeling. Initially looking at the performance/dance work of Martha Graham, she assembled various large scale installations of cut-outs made from painted and constructed elements: photographic, silk-screened and patterned fabrics, including black velvet, inscribed (scribbled and scrawled) with oil pastel marks and notations. Referencing choreographers’ drawings (historical and contemporary) with the drawing details, marks, arrows and notations resonating movement, is further reinforced in the poses and gestures of the figures and costumes.
The Choreography of Cutting exhibition at Purdy Hicks includes an installation of blackboard walls and chalk notations with cut-out figures, to create a dance, using collage, printmaking, photography and video (and puppetry) to extend the examination of the body, movement and the feminine.
The ‘cutting’ in the work’s title directly references Smart's collage practice (where she draw with scissors and blades) and the psychological condition of self -cutting often described as delicate cutting. The assemblages of performance point to the physical body’s capacity to express a collective and individual anxiety. Smart explores her process of making, drawing and cutting and how it might align to choreography - to image thinking in movement.