John Smith was born in Walthamstow, East London in 1952 and studied film at the Royal College of Art. Initially inspired by conceptual art and the structural materialist ideas that dominated British artists’ filmmaking during his formative years, but also fascinated by the immersive power of narrative and the spoken word, he has developed an extensive body of work that subverts the perceived boundaries between documentary and fiction, representation and abstraction. Often rooted in everyday life, Smith's meticulously crafted films rework and transform reality, playfully exploring and exposing the language of cinema.
Since 1972 John Smith has made over fifty film, video and installation works that have been shown in independent cinemas, art galleries and on television around the world and awarded major prizes at many international film festivals. He received a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists in 2011, and in 2013 he was the winner of Film London's Jarman Award. His solo exhibitions include Centre d'Art Contemporain de Noisy-le-Sec, Paris (2014); The Gallery, Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle upon Tyne (2014); Figge von Rosen Gallery, Cologne (2013); Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin (2013, 2012 and 2010); Kestnergesellschaft, Hanover (2012); Turner Contemporary, Margate (2012); Weserburg Museum for Modern Art, Bremen (2012); Uppsala Art Museum, Sweden (2011); PEER Gallery, London (2011); Pallas Projects, Dublin (2011); Royal College of Art Galleries, London (2010); Sala Diaz Gallery, Texas (2010); Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2006); Kunstmuseum Magdeburg (2005); Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool (2003) and Pearl Gallery, London (2003). Major group shows include 'Invocable Reality', Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (2014); 'The Reluctant Narrator', Berardo Museum, Lisbon (2014); 'Constellations', Tate Liverpool (2013-14); 'Image Counter Image', Haus der Kunst, Munich (2012); 'Has The Film Already Started?', Tate Britain (2011-12); Berlin Biennial (2010); ‘The Talent Show’, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and MoMA PS1, New York (2010); Venice Biennale (2007); ‘A Century of Artists’ Film in Britain’, Tate Britain (2004); ‘Live in Your Head: Concept and Experiment in Britain 1965-75’, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2000) and ‘The British Art Show’, UK touring exhibition (1984). John Smith regularly presents his work in person and in recent years it has been profiled through retrospectives at film festivals in Oberhausen, Tampere, St. Petersburg, La Rochelle, Mexico City, Uppsala, Cork, Sarajevo, Regensburg, Stuttgart, Karlstad, Winterthur, Bristol, Hull and Glasgow.