“There is a willow grows aslant a brook,” says Gertrude in Act 4, Scene 7 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, describing the place where Ophelia has met her death. Reading the play, and thinking of the thwarted, silenced young woman drowning in muddy waters, Anj Smith created an intricate painting in a magic-realist style. Titled False Steward, it shows Ophelia’s face and torso completely veiled in wiry branches and luminous flowers. Smith draws from varied source material and is know for weaving complex narratives into her work. “Painting can reveal the subtlest nuance,” Smith explains, “facilitate the weirdest ambiguities and articulate huge complexity with an immediacy that is hard to ignore. It is perfect for our times.” With 23 paintings and prints, this is the largest presentation of Smith’s work in a U.K. gallery to date. —E.C.
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