Ken Smith was born in Manchester in 1944 and spent his early years in Japan and Singapore where his father was stationed in the army, he then returned to Colchester some years later and at the age of seventeen took up an apprenticeship as a carpenter. It was here that Ken discovered and learnt the respect for tools, stone and natural materials.
At the age of twenty, unsure of himself and searching for a sense of inner direction, Ken went to live in a Franciscan Friary. He stayed with the monks for two years, living and mixing with the brothers. Whilst contemplating whether or not to join the order, Ken attended a local technical college, where he decided to study sculpture. Ken flourished within this environment and in due course his tutor suggested he contact Henry Moore. Ken wrote to the artist, enclosing photographs of some of his work, in the hope that he would be accepted as an apprentice. Henry Moore kindly replied, praising the work and suggested the young Ken attend Art School and contact him after his studies.
Heeding this advice, Ken approached the Slade School of Art and presented examples of his work to the then Professor of Sculpture, Reg Butler. He was offered a place but decided not to take up the offer, as he had not undertaken a foundation or degree course. Instead he attended a foundation course at Walthamstow College of Art and began to develop his own identity as a sculptor. During this year Ken exhibited at the Royal Academy and several provincial galleries.
Ken’s continued his artistic education at the Bristol School of Art where he studied etching and experimented with various types of material and obtained a Fine Arts Degree. Upon leaving, Ken sought the advice of Willie Soukop as to what direction he should pursue. Soukop advised Ken to follow his own path and pursue his signature sculptural style, as was evident to in his work. Ken has been adhering to that advice for the past forty years, during which he has been fortunate enough to enjoy a number of successful exhibitions of his work, largely in London and Spain.
Ken is inspired and motivated by his own family, the closeness of it and the suffering of various minorities, both ethnic and social. His time spent with the Franciscan monks and his years and a social worked have driven Ken to explore his spirituality in his sculpture. These themes and the human form are prominent in his work, although often in an abstract manner. The primary material in Ken’s oeuvre is Polyphant, which is blue-grey in colour and quarried in Devon. It is a soft stone, reasonably easy to carve, and with many hours of polishing, provide the works with a beautiful finish.
Examples of Ken’s work in Spain have resulted in three exhibitions there. He still visits the island and works on commissions, recently completing a 2500 kg sculpture in marble for a private collector. This sculpture has subsequently been placed in the collector’s grounds in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Another monumental piece in marble is currently located at Reads Hotel, Santa Maria, Mallorca.