Mark Liam Smith – Of Centaurs and Men

In this body of paintings, Of Centaurs and Men, I created a world of magical realism to examine the idea of liminality.

Liminality means threshold or limit and indicates a transitional state or conceptual space between two positions, often dichotomies. The conceptual space separating two opposing choices (this or that) itself contains an alternative choice: both and neither. The centaur, as a human-horse hybrid, perfectly articulates the liminal position: It is both human and horse, while also being neither human nor horse.

The liminal position serves to expose dichotomies as incomplete by drawing attention to the space between them. With this conceptual underpinning, I call into question commonly held dichotomies, such as masculine/feminine, ugly/beautiful, good/bad. The liminal space is where I believe much of our experience is held.

My application of paint complements the concept of liminality: The centaurs are represented realistically, whereas the forest settings are painterly. The paintings themselves are thus both realistic and painterly while also being neither realistic nor painterly. The hues are implausible, whereas the tone and chroma comply with convention. In effect, I create a world of magical realism that both exists and does not exist. This superposition illuminates the necessity for acknowledging liminality and its rejection of traditional dichotomous thinking.

Smith acknowledges the generous support of the Ontario Arts Council in funding this project.