LOT 005

1919 - 2020

June 99
acrylic on canvas
signed and on verso signed, titled and dated 1999
85 x 67 in, 215.9 x 170.2 cm

Estimate: $60,000 - $80,000 CAD

Sold for: $217,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Equinox Gallery, Vancouver
Acquired from the above by the present Private Collection, Vancouver, 1999

Ian M. Thom and Andrew Hunter, Gordon Smith: The Act of Painting, Vancouver Art Gallery, 1997, pages 1, 18 and 19
Andy Sylvester, Gordon Smith: Don’t Look Back, 2014, page 120

I do not think of my paintings as devoid of subject matter. My feelings and themes are largely derived from nature, the sea, rocks, trees; the things I live with…Painting should be a re-creation of an experience rather than an illustration of an experience.

—Gordon Smith

Gordon Smith was an important figure who was instrumental in introducing modernism to the West Coast. Smith joined with regional and international artists who, as Ian Wallace wrote, “were defining the new culture of modernity in an international vocabulary of abstract painting that was the radical revitalization of painting in the early post-war period.” In 1951, Smith went to the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, and his painting instructor was artist Elmer Bischoff. In one class, Bischoff told his class to get a big canvas, place it on the floor, and just start painting without anything in mind. As Smith related, “It was a real shock treatment. We got into the act of painting…..at the time it was absolutely new and a revelation.” While there, he was exposed to the work of American artists Clyfford Still, Richard Diebenkorn and Arshile Gorky, among others. Abstract Expressionism galvanized the American art world, and Smith stated that it “taught me the quality of paint.” Smith’s San Francisco experience was a turning point in his career.

June 99 is an all-over composition of softly brushed shapes suggesting flowers and greenery - a rich, abstracted tapestry. From the mid-1990s, Smith had worked on a Pond series with water lilies and flowering embankments, which tended to be more representational and specific in its imagery. This more abstract painting is concurrent with these works, evidence of Smith’s ease of movement between varying degrees of abstraction and representation.

In June 99, Smith used differing viscosities of paint - in some places thick and in others thin – from which the drips run down the canvas. His technique makes the viewer aware of the qualities of the medium, as wielded by the hand of the artist. Patches of pigment are sometimes built up to create textural effects, and they float across the surface criss-crossed by thin black lines. Smith created a push-pull dynamic with his spatial effects - the black creates a feeling of depth while the white pushes forward, and the dripping asserts the front of the picture plane. The pigmentation is gorgeous; rich blues, purples and greens vie with orange and yellow highlights, creating the impression of a riotous bed of flowers.

Estimate: $60,000 - $80,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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