Welcome to MONIKER EDITIONS, Mr Smith! Moniker is so pleased to collaborate with you on this special print, not only because your artwork style and technique is second-to-none but also because your debut UK solo show was held at our London fair back in 2018 and you SOLD IT OUT, so you already have a special place in our hearts.
Firstly, let’s talk about your background - interestingly, you were raised in Australia, but born in the Netherlands where you are currently based? Tell us about your up-bringing and how it influences your artworks?
Hi, so I was raised in Melbourne city and I’m currently back in Amsterdam after having spent around 3 years in New York. As someone with scattered family roots I always found comfort in growing up in big city melting pots. My work will always reference these different city environments, and in this age of globalisation it’s always fascinating to see how much people from other places can relate to yours. During the London Moniker show, I had a short film playing on loop next to my paintings, most people assumed it was filmed in London, even though it was filmed in Rotterdam where I had been living for some years. This blending reality is something I’m interested in capturing.
Your earlier works focused on an array of people from different parts of the world, specifically those whose lives have been subjected to globalisation and migration - what made you decide to base your paintings on these issues?
Those earlier series of works were things that I was always passionate about and that had influence on my life in one way or another. I was very young at the time probably 19-20. I think as I started growing up some more I was interested in exploring my own youth and the culture attached to that, this is what lead to these new series of works.
The majority of your more recent paintings are portraits of children/young adults who are often dressed in stylish brands such as Nike or Adidas, or in costumes suggesting royalty - let’s hear a bit more about the backstory of your paintings and how you select your subjects?
Yeah so this series which started with some works premised around “Le Petit Prince” which then just developed into another series which ended up being titled into a show called “A Utopia Where The Problems Are Not Fixed”. This title kind of encapsulates the juxtaposed tension of the world created in the paintings. In this world complicated systematic effects are still in place, but the idea of utopia is on the connectivity built around loyalty, trust and love within this imperfect environment, as well as one’s own self-worth and comfortability in who they are.
I think that last question rolls us nicely along to talking about the print release of “Prince Xavier”. Tell us a little more about Xavier and what is so special about this painting that you selected it to be your Moniker Edition print?
Xavier was one of the students I taught when volunteer teaching at an elementary school in the Bronx in 2017-2018. He was part of the first class I ever taught. And was by far one of the most attentive, creative and interested in learning about painting. I feel like I really got to know him by the end of my lessons at the elementary school. I had given the kids I taught a small print which he bought home to his mother who eventually ended up reaching out to me after I had posted an open call for models. I was of course super happy with the proposition. Xavier and his mum visited my studio in the bronx where the reference photo for the painting was shot. He was around 9 years old at the time.
Give our readers some more information on your charity of choice and what their aims are?
I had volunteered at an elementary school in the Bronx in 2017-2018 as it for years had no funding for art classes, meaning many of the kids I taught had never held a paint brush before. In 2019 the school finally got an art teacher, however post COVID that funding was completely cut, halting all art and music classes for the entire school permanently. This is the case for a large number of public schools in New York.
The charity proceeds from this print will go to supplies for art workshop at the same school Xavier attended, which are set for September of this year and will cover as many students as possible. Any remaining money will go to the Bronx Council of Arts. As someone who was only able to study art in New York due to scholarships art education is something that means the world to me.
When looking through your portfolio, I noticed a graffiti typography series where sentences are sprayed directly onto decorative rugs and they really caught my attention - what was the inspiration behind these and are the sentences of any relevance to you personally or just made up for the purpose of each piece?
Graffiti was my entry point into art. These works came about one day bored in the studio with a left over rug from a photo shoot. People ended up loving them so I have made a small series of them. The sentences I wrote definitely hold personal meaning.
Let’s rewind back to 2018 - tell us more about your show at Moniker Art Fair? How did it come about? How did it feel to sell out your first ever UK solo show?
That was definitely a wild story, I got the call for the show in July and had just sold all my works at my graduation show. I basically had 3 months to make an entire body of works, while moving from Rotterdam back to New York and starting my masters course In September, mind you the show was beginning of October. Luckily I already had 3 works in the early stages when I got the call in July, I managed to finish them before moving in August, then got the final 4 done in New York. That last painting arrived a day before the show started. The experience of the show was amazing. London holds a really special place to me. I always see it as this cross over from Europe and Australia, making me feel weirdly at home. So having my first major show there was amazing.
A notable exhibition of yours entitled “Europe or Nothing” included paintings, photography, installations, and a short documentary - are there any future plans for you to work within any of these mediums again? Or are you focusing on your paintings?
Film is definitely still a big part of my practice. After experiencing with all sorts of aspect of film. I think I found my passion and focus in script writing. I’m currently working on getting a TV series made in Australia, it’s a long process of organisation but the majority of the writing is already done, so really now its over to the developers who have taken it on, and I once again have all the time in the world to paint in my studio.
Earlier this year, The Moniker Foundation acquired one of your paintings - "Royal Benching" now sits proudly as part of The Moniker Collection. Tell us a little more about this mesmerising piece!
Royal Benching is a work that was an ode to the graffiti term "Benching" which was founded in the 70's New York as a term for sitting at a station bench watching freshly painted murals go by on trains. This term spread through youth culture across the world, and was also used as a common place for young kids to meet and hang out. The origins of the reference take place in two different cities, which although accidental, add on to the way this term and culture has moved throughout inner cities in different continents. The couch and children were photographed in my studio in the Bronx, New York, whereas the park and apartment building were photographed in Amsterdam North behind where my father lives.
What’s next for Kaili Smith? Let our readers know where in the world they can find your next exhibition.
I have been working on a new series that focuses on (Euro) Inner-city family dynamics. I feel like it touches on some really new things while at the same time being a follow up to the past series of paintings. I really look forward to sharing them all soon. In terms of where, that will be revealed in due time :)
Kaili's new print "Prince Xavier" will be exclusively available on the Moniker Art Fair print shop as a timed-release from July 15 - July 21: click here for more details
Title: Prince Xavier Artist: Kaili Smith Medium: Innova Fabriano Artistico Rag 310GSM Dimensions: 23.5 x 16.5 inches Price: £200 Timed Release: Prints go on sale on the 15th - 21st of July 2022. Final edition size is dependent on the amount of prints sold. Edition numbers are on a first come, first serve basis. All collectors of the physical print will receive access to claim the NFT of the artwork, available through the Moniker Marketplace in the near future.