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Mary Claire Smith

Mary Claire Smith’s practice is rooted in a sense of place achieved through drawing—using repeat sketches of a subject made outdoors through considered observations of a landscape. She responds to the atmospheres and feelings conjured up by her surroundings—remaining mindful that we are all in and of nature—and spends her time contemplating the shapes and movement of trees and other natural forms.

Currently Mary Claire is working on a series of tree portraits which focus on the undulations of branches, the textures of bark and the choreography of leaves. She intends to show the solid rootedness of these beautiful forms, but also something of their fragility in the light of climate breakdown. Alongside botanical imagery, drawn from life, she is introducing quotations from women writers as a way of referencing the part human beings have played in the climate emergency. By often using quotations by women of colour, she is making a wider point about injustice, prejudice and the need to take responsibility.

In another series she examines the tension between human and natural worlds by raising questions as to whether a building might be being reclaimed or overtaken by natural forces—a re-wilding— or whether it might be inserted as an interference or disturbance to nature. Or maybe that of a world in which humans and nature respectfully co-exist.

Science has shown how important trees are in combatting the ravages of the climate emergency by absorbing and storing carbon. There has also been research into the ways in which trees are able to communicate, sharing the resources of the forest—light, soil and water—to ensure the survival of the eco-system. Trees, then, both bear witness to and actively affect how human beings (mis)treat the natural world. Mary Claire utilises the tree motif as a poignant symbol of the crises of climate and biodiversity.

Mary Claire Smith is inspired by the immediate surroundings of the North Kent coastline, as well as by her travels in other coastal terrains. She has a degree in Fine Art, and postgraduate qualifications in Printmaking and Illustration from Central Saint Martins, where she was awarded the Cecil Collins Prize for Print. She has worked as a freelance illustrator, a studio assistant and editioning printer at Paupers Press and Hope Sufferance, as well as teaching for a number of years, before setting up Frank in Whitstable, Kent—an independent space showing print and craft.

Mary Claire Smith has been selected for the Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair 2022 and 2023. Her work is represented by Columbia Road Gallery.

Instagram: @mcprintworks