“Really to play, a [person] must play like a child.”  (1)

I believe that play and creativity have a fundamental relationship.  Playing with materials, forms, scale, texts, objects and toys are the threads that I work with in the studio in attempting to weave new forms.   I am engaged with structure and the making of objects - both intimate and large scale.  I strongly believe that the well-made object is the fundamental basis for any meaningful artistic production.

The concept of play is relevant to my concerns, notably the idea that creative solutions might be found within a sense of play - of the possibilities that play offers.  In the creative act, it is often beneficial to undertake “serious play” as a means of generating solutions and objects.

Using toys as a foundation material is a natural fit that I have gravitated toward as a means of speaking to my concerns.  Toys have always fascinated me – how they function and how their meanings can be ‘read’.  For such simple objects toys inhabit a complex space – a space that might not be exclusive to issues of socialization, aggression, domesticity, violence, gender and cooperation. 

I am concerned with memories: how they are constructed and fostered, their fugitive nature, how they might be represented, what they mean and how are they grounded in ‘agreed upon’ fictions. My use of the formal and metaphorical constituencies of the house seeks to position memory within the domestic space. I have come to see these links as falling under what I am terming an architecture of memory. There is a sense of the fundamental in the house: it is at once an expression of our inner/outer selves and acts as a protective covering which shelters both our bodies and our minds

“…if I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.” (2)

Concepts of the index, memory and the archive have led me to amass objects that were once hand held in their use: axe handles, broom handles, hammer handles, baseball bats and hockey sticks.  Traces of memory inhabit the surface of the objects through the repeated layering of pucks shot, balls hit, stick ends taped, nails struck and acres of floors swept.  Using these artifacts articulates my interest in the work/play dialectic. 

The hands of the former owner/user are present by virtue of the patina left on the smooth worn handles of the tools or the battered and torn taped ends of the sticks and bats.  The ghost mark of the hand is represented in tactile form on the objects.

My most recent work explores scale, restructuring expectations, hybridity and the violence of play.  The structures speak to work and play: small people supporting larger house forms, pushing “body-sized” orbs uphill and shoving large blocks of LEGO up a ramp.  The Sisyphean nature of the images might at first speak to a sense of futility, however, I would hope that it might also be read as an honest representation of the integrity of work and the importance of being intentional in our efforts.

(1 )Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens (Boston: Beacon Press, 1955), 199.

(2) Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), 18.


Roch Smith