Imagined Narratives: Artist Mark Liam Smith transforms colour-blindness into strength

Canadian artist Mark Liam Smith has taken the art scene by storm with his latest body of paintings, Imagined Narratives. The surreal, photorealistic paintings are painted in non-local colours, a signature Smith developed as a result of his colour blindness.

He explained: “As a colour-blind artist, I long had to rely on colour-mixing formulas to recreate skin tones. Later in my practice, I realised that local colours served only to restrict my expression. By viewing my colour-blindness as a strength rather than a weakness, I’ve embraced the use of non-local colours to develop my work.”

If Smith’s colour-blindness inspired the palette, his background in Linguistics inspired the concept: "My paintings as visual works of fiction: I create a narrative using shape, colour, and characters. I carefully consider the chromatic and spatial relationships in my paintings to achieve movement and balance, just as an author uses literary devices to advance the plot."

His series features small portraits, larger works with multiple figures, and a sub-series of hand paintings, which Smith dubbed Hand Haikus.

Smith has gained international recognition for his work since unveiling Imagined Narratives at a duo show at his Toronto gallery, the Elaine Fleck Gallery, in June 2016. One of his flagship paintings, Double Entendre, won fifth place in a competition held by the International Confederation of Art Critics earlier this month. Days later, his work was featured on art and design blogs across the world. One of the smaller paintings, Creative Currency, secured him a group show at JanKossen Contemporary in Chelsea, NYC. The show closes 17 August 2016.

Smith hails from Saskatchewan, but has been based in Toronto since 2015. He has since been granted the Emerging Artist Award by the Federation of Canadian Artists and featured by the Toronto Star and the CBC for his artistic achievements. In the summer of 2016, he exhibited at SCOPE Basel in Basel, Switzerland. Discover more at

Via direct submission | All images courtesy of Mark Liam Smith


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