Fern Smith

Just before COVID19 swept through the world we moved to Portarlington, from Coburg North in Melbourne, Victoria Australia. I am exceptionally lucky to have my own studio for over thirty years – a room of your own gives you time to explore, play and make mistakes.

Hello world, self at three, at Heide by an unknown photographer possibly Gray Smith (my father) the image is held at Heide MoMA in Smith/Hester files.

I have been honoured to participate in Tina FiveAsh’s (Photo artist) Death Letter Project where I wrote about what I thought and felt about death. FiveAsh captured some amazing images of me. My letter and her photographs were published January 2024. found Fern Smith | Artist / Storyteller — The Death Letter Project (deathletterprojects.com)

Last year I was interviewed by Environment Victoria about my reasons for volunteering at Bellarine Landcare Nursery. Here is the transcript and beautiful short movie. Transcript for Seachangers and Treechangers (environment.vic.gov.au)

Also last year I started in earnest the Longest Book in the World community art project through the Geelong Regional Library Service, holding small intimate workshops to achieve the aim of the longest book in the world. For more information on the project. https://fernartz.com/the-longest-book-in-the-world/

Those things you google: Curriculum Vitae – 2022 and Published words Publications – FernArtz

the sea is sinking

The photo above, (from the left: Margaret Cowling, Fern Smith, Maggie Chiara Cowling) holding up students Crankies and animation was published in Moreland Leader 9/12/2019 on a forty-degree day. Not in the photo and also installing “The Sea is Sinking” was Youbi Lee, Fredrick White, and Piero Pompeani; We were sweltering. The Thousands and thousands of artworks created by over five hundred participants formed the interactive installation at Merlynston Hall, Coburg North Melbourne. For more information The Sea is Sinking – FernArtz

Photo by Kathy Sport talking about art practice 2019 for QTV.
Photo by Alan Erpi for Moreland Council calendar 2018 (now Merri Bek Council)
Fish and Chips – paper, cotton dyes paint by Fern Smith – 2018 for BOX IT exhibition.
A sea parcel – paper, water colour, oil paints, dyes, pastels and cotton 2018 to be used as an example while forming collaborations for The Sea is Sinking Project.

“When I saw her designs on the internet, I felt I was contemplating a great work” Rosario Pena Perez, author – Spain.

Who am I?
I am a person with a passion to tell stories through drawing, painting, printing, papier Mache and the written word. A lot of my art practice is to convey the complex contemporary social change.

Covid epidemic (2020-2022) challenged me as an artist who often worked with community. The world closed down. I closed in. What emerged was my passion to write. Over the years I had undertook online writing workshops and finally joined the Geelong Writers. Publications – FernArtz

In 2009 I changed my art practice to consider the environment on a deep and practical level. Aiming for standard of work that is both archival and waterway safe. I researched how to make: paint – oil water and colour Make your own paint – FernArtz ; glue for scrolls book binding collage Homemade Archival Glue – FernArtz. More of what I explored on my path to being an environmentally responsible artist and is freely available to the public on my artclass page. Art Class – FernArtz. I held many community exhibitions at my studio where the brief was centred around environmental art practice. A highlight of environmentally safe art practice was the Sea is Sinking and now The Longest Book in the World project.

I love digital print – a small sample of computer generated artwork

How did I get to be an artist?
You could say it’s in my blood however that would be only part of the truth. My artistic parents mixed with other artists and intellectuals. Like most children I made sense of my world through drawing, I just never stopped. Seeded in childhood contemplation and community walked side by side enabling creativity. Roving around the neighbourhood with packs of children comprising of family members, friends or a bit of both developed a deep sense of community. The flip side of was the quiet a time to contemplate through wandering suburban streets and yet tamed waterways.

The world of adults was always a bit mystifying to me. My parents fluctuated between bouts of creativity, parties, openings, living in clouds of smoke, raised voices, alcohol and always teetering on the edge of being. In the adults’ domain, inside the house, I dreamed of escape. I think everyone dreams of escape or belonging – a coin we flip arbitrarily according to the environment.

Drawing of Mary Owen life long feminist in Melbourne

Still in childhood one whole wall in our house was top to bottom, side to side, was crammed full of books. One of those books told the life of Modigliani he was my first influence. The elongated faces cut back to simple lines with a large smattering of melancholy. I dreamed his life, I became him; living in an attic in my head, painting the steady stream of nude models and ducking out to have coffee with other fellow artists on cramped sidewalks. A very early teenage vision. In Western Australia in Fremantle, I came close to that influence in my early thirties- sitting in cafes and bars not far from home or studio. The romance of that lifestyle did not meet reality. I was a mother not a single man and I didn’t paint female nudes.

Artwork by Fern Smith

Always drawing, a draughtswoman. From dreaming of being an artist to actually becoming and artist took twenty years. To be an artist I define that as your first public exhibition. Up to that point of being an artist I gave works away, lost works through abode changes. I wafted through life. For a few moments in no particular order, I was a card-carrying communist, a kitchen hand, cleaner, mother, lover, devotee, gardener, walker, goat herder, feminist, humanist, cook, demonstrator. I meditated and medicated, always a drawer.

David Turnbull a dear friend, with a gentle soul, gave me a large box when I was about 28 and told me to put my art in that box. After a year he asked to see what’s in there, upon showing the artwork he suggested it was time to have an exhibition.

Bookings essential

Cut a complicated part of my life out and give you the gist. I lost many things two brothers, land, son, home and any form of attachment to the world. The box became a boat that guided me to the other side. I had my first exhibition when thirty.

Intaglio Print

Madly holding exhibitions from 1985 onward and my son came back. Part of me landed. I had direction and my son, it gave me the strength to jump that fence and never look back, I came ‘out’ in late 1989. Bit slow I know. Now the two parts of me were reconciled and was a force to recon with. I started to steadily have solo exhibitions and get direction for my art practice. Never look back.

Opaque watercolour on cotton left and digital art print right from “Tides Turn”

Snippet selection 2000’s

Snippet selection 1980’s -1990’s


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