One-to-One (2016–present)
Black marker on recycled paper
Sizes vary


One-to-One (2016–present) is a series of handwritten pieces, began in earnest when I was a child.  Back then I had a habit of jotting down words that I liked the look of, and it has now become a lifelong habit.

I was ten years old when my foster sisters, Tanya and Kathy, left home abruptly and in quick succession.  Their absence caused me to turn inwards, and I felt somewhat responsible for their leaving, too.  It would be years before I had direct contact with them again, and in the interim, I found myself going through items that they’d left behind in the house: cassette tapes, photographs, and hefty collection of Young Adult books.  What began as a coping mechanism became a sort of obsession; I’d study words and sentences from my sister’s books and copy them into my notepad.  As I got older, I started to recorded bits and pieces from real-life conversations, too. I’d write down certain things I’d overhear people say and quiz them about where the sayings or words originated from.  I even spent a summer holiday carrying around a thesaurus, reading it as though it was a novel.

By the time I was an undergraduate student in the late 2000’s, it had become second nature for me to collect words this way.  I started to use my mobile phone like a diary, texting myself sentences or just singular words for me to remember and look at later. I also began reading photographs with text, signage and advertisements, pulling words that I could rearticulate. In a way, this was like a mood board, or digitized sketchbook for me to work from, and a lot of my project titles have originated from this. 

I never stopped using a pen and paper, though, and this is what is presented here: an amalgamation of written works from the last six years.  Each piece has been photographed and sequenced accordingly but can also be recontextualized and considered as stand-alone artworks, too.


Supporting image credits (left to right): Ella Condon via Instagram, Karen Lorena via Instagram, Vix Walker via Facebook.

For the First Time in my Life (2014)
Glass panel with applied text
36” x 24” x 1.5"


The title of this work comes from a statement I wrote in a jotter the night before I got married.  By using a reflective surface to display my handwriting, I am inviting others to look into the mirror and relate to my very personal message.  It reads, "For the First Time in my Life the Future is more Important than the Past."  I am speaking about the past and the future, but the reflection always shows the present.


This work was exhibited as part of the group show, #IRL: In Real Life at Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries at Parsons School of Design, 14 August–11 September, 2014.  Supporting images (see above) were taken by various viewers at the Opening Reception and posted on social media.

© 2024 Jonathan David Smyth. All rights reserved.