Inside Jeremy Smith’s Studio: Where Maps Tell More Than Directions

Wanderlust. Queer Culture. Maps.

Ward Williams, Founder and CEO of Seminal, recently had the pleasure of diving into the intricate world of Jeremy Smith, the Sydney-based artist who’s turning maps into more than just tools for finding the nearest Starbucks. Jeremy is flipping the script on cartography, turning it into a visual feast that’s part detective story, part love letter to the city.

In a world where maps often confine themselves to roadways and landmarks, Jeremy takes us on a joyride through a literary kaleidoscope of avenues, weaving together histories, geographies, and a dash of personal flair.

Grab your magnifying glass, put on your explorer hat, and get ready to traverse the colourful and complex cartography of Jeremy Smith’s art. Trust me; it’s a visual journey you won’t want to miss.

Ward and Jeremy admiring QUEER SYDNEY
Ward and Jeremy admiring QUEER SYDNEY: A HISTORY,
2022, a finalist in the Tim Olsen drawing prize

In the heart of Sydney, Jeremy Smith, a multifaceted artist and Ph.D. candidate at UNSW, weaves intricate tales through his large-scale detailed drawings. His journey into the realm of art began with a double degree in fine arts and literature, a combination that laid the foundation for his unique approach. Rather than creating mere aesthetic visuals, Jeremy’s works transcend the visual plane, incorporating narratives inspired by literature and films.

His creations, sprawling tapestries of text, pictographic elements, and geographic locations, serve as more than mere maps. Delving into the hidden layers of history and community, Jeremy’s art becomes a readable, multi-faceted exploration. Each piece is a journey, a story waiting to be uncovered, with nuances that reveal themselves differently to each viewer.

“I like to see them as more than just
visually aesthetic. They are readable,
they have histories to them.”

The inspiration for his recent masterpiece, “Queer Sydney Bubbles,” emerged from the 17th-century cartographer Cassini’s double hemisphere maps. This work, mapping the traditional and new queer bubbles of Sydney, becomes a visual metaphor for the intersection of history and identity in the city. What sets Jeremy’s art apart is its fusion of academic rigor with visual appeal. His method involves collecting, collating, and visually representing data in a single, comprehensive map. Whether tackling climate change or mapping gay Sydney, Jeremy encapsulates entire subjects into a static visual narrative, encouraging viewers to traverse its intricate details.

Recalling childhood moments spent poring over Gregorys maps in the car, Jeremy emphasizes the importance of personal maps. Beyond the conventional depictions of roads and buildings, he aims to reveal the stories, histories, and hidden communities that exist beneath the surface.

“My art has a lot of text involved and it’s
very much an academic kind of practice,
but it’s also visually appealing.”

For Jeremy, the art of mapping extends beyond geographical navigation; it becomes a powerful tool for reclaiming personal narratives. In a counter-mapping approach, he explores subjective maps that empower individuals to make sense of their world, steering away from the dark histories associated with traditional map-making.

The artist’s current focus on Sydney’s LGBTQ+ history reflects not only a personal connection but also a commitment to preserving the community’s overlooked stories. From the shadows of criminalisation to the present era of acceptance, Jeremy chronicles the transformation through large-scale cultural artefacts.

“A really big part of my practice, is
to uncover hidden worlds, hidden
languages, hidden communities.”

Drawing inspiration from religious texts and medieval European imagery, Jeremy incorporates elements reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch’s surrealist visions. By infusing motifs from historical works into his creations, he connects with a lineage of queer forefathers, weaving verbal histories into visual narratives.

Jeremy’s art extends beyond gallery walls, finding its place in public institutions like Fisher Library, Sydney and the State Library of New South Wales. As he embarks on future projects, including a collaboration with the redevelopment of a building on Oxford Street, Jeremy envisions his works as cultural artifacts that capture the zeitgeist and speak to the evolving culture of our time.

Artwork History

“I really want to see my works, my
maps, as little snippets or pieces of
our current history.”

Ultimately, Jeremy Smith invites viewers to explore his maps as more than just static images. He encourages them to be visual protagonists, unraveling the layers, stories, and histories embedded in his creations. In doing so, he not only challenges traditional notions of maps but also prompts a reflection on the interplay between personal identity and the spaces we inhabit.

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