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Giulia Smith

Giulia Smith is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the Ruskin School of Art (2019–22). Previously, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (2018–19) and the Getty Research Institute (2016–17).

Dr Giulia Smith’s research examines the changing synergy between landscape, ecology and identity in the context of the dissolution of the British Empire, a uniquely destabilizing moment in which the country experienced the loss of its global territories and unprecedented arrivals from the Commonwealth regions. It is telling that in 1989 Prince Charles expressed his hopes for greater ‘imaginative involvement with the natural landscape’, while Paul Gilroy, the leading postcolonial thinker, called for critical revaluations of the role that depictions of ‘blood, soil and seawater’ had played in the construction of a modern and multiracial Britain. By the end of the 1980s, the British landscape tradition had become an object of open contention, with its proponents harbouring different contradictory ambitions for the future of national identity.

Provisionally titled Unpatriotic Landscapes: Nature and Decolonisation in Post-Imperial Britain, the book that Giulia is writing will bring together her doctoral research on the history of ecological aesthetics in postwar Britain with new material on the work of artists, writers and thinkers born in the Anglophone Caribbean and active between 1945 and the present, including Denis Williams, Aubrey Williams and Frank Bowling. Extracts of this research are due to appear as a book chapter in New Histories of Art in the Global Postwar Era: Multiple Modernisms, eds. Flavia Frigeri and Kristian Handberg (forthcoming with Routledge).

Alongside her main research project, Giulia is working on a series of articles on the theme of ‘diasporic intimacies’ in postwar London. These include an article on Frank Bowling’s figurative paintings based on a conference paper delivered at Tate Britain on occasion of the first retrospective dedicated to this artist in the country where he spent the best part of his career (Summer 2019). Titled ‘Of Love, Politics and Paint: Frank Bowling in the early 1960s’, the article explores the politics of interracial love as they figure in this artist’s work as well as in the broader cultural context of the 1960s. Giulia is also completing an article on the women artists involved in the seminal exhibition This Is Tomorrow (Whitechapel Gallery, 1956). Developed with support from a grant awarded by the Paul Mellon Centre, the article builds on Giulia’s doctoral research on Independent Group members Magda Cordell and Alison Smithson, opening new lines of enquiry in relation to less well-known émigré artists such as Helen Phillips and Sarah Jackson. 

In the past, Giulia has published in peer-reviewed journals (including British Art Studies, Sculpture Journal and Oxford Art Journal), as well as having contributed articles and reviews to Art Monthly, Frieze and the Wellcome Blog. Her writings on contemporary art focus primarily on intersectional aesthetics, including feminist, queer and crip art practices. In terms of curatorial projects, Giulia has worked in collaboration with South London Gallery, ICA, Showroom and Arcadia Missa. Previously, she was a curatorial intern at the Guggenheim Museum, NYC and The Drawing Center. At the Ruskin she teaches two courses, ‘Black Art: What Is It?’ and ‘Feminism and the Artist’s Body’.