In Plate Glass, Sam Shmith’s seven new large-scale landscapes operate as a portrait of our own contemplative attempts to grasp that which we are existent within, yet secluded from. Shmith’s photographic mastery elucidates the polyvalent function of plate glass; offering transparency, perspective, protection and reflection. It is the particular function of windows to permit the interior and exterior, the inside and the outside, to be united. Yet, in looking out a window, we also demarcate our own private, sheltered enclaves, our own contemplation.
Depicting expansive composite landscapes, often as they are encountered in states of transit, Shmith’s photo-works take us to places unrecognizable, yet strangely familiar. Digitally layered from an image bank of over 60,000 self-harvested photographs, Shmith choreographs a hybrid of images from his personal archives into each photo-work.
Thematically, Shmith cites Flight to Arras (the Antoine de Saint-Exupery autobiography), describing the poet’s task as being ‘to erect images like ramparts round (a) thing in order to capture it. To capture it in a snare of images.’ The poetic nature of Plate Glass oscillates around a combination of the familiar broad strokes of one’s view of the landscape, the sky, the earth, with the specific and unsettling moment of understanding oneself within it – one’s reflection in the glass. We are taken to a bird’s eye view of a city, the ink black of night skillfully illuminated and captured from an aeroplane window as the craft slowly descends. We are struck by the eerie stillness of a train, the landscape hustling past its passengers and the passengers gliding away, captured within a fluorescent glow.