BCSFA CGP CPE OC RCA
1919 - 2020
M I (The Seasons)
acrylic on canvas
signed and on verso titled and dated 1999 on the gallery label
71 x 67 in 180.3 x 170.2 cm
Equinox Gallery, Vancouver
Ballard Fine Art Ltd., Vancouver
Private Collection, Vancouver
Anthony Emery, “Artist in Perspective: Gordon Smith Interview,” Canadian Art, July 1966, page 36
From the mid-1990s, Gordon 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 from 1999 is concurrent with these works, evidence of Smith’s ease of movement between varying degrees of abstraction and representation. In this rich period of Smith’s production, he responded intuitively to the seasons through all-over compositions of softly brushed shapes, drips and textures, resulting in various rich, abstracted tapestries. While M I (The Seasons) is non-representational, Smith always started from landscape, once stating, “Even when I’ve tried to get away from it, to keep my work non-figurative, the landscape usually crept in.” He found inspiration in the landscape of the West Coast, from the woods around his home in West Vancouver to the North Shore mountains or up Howe Sound.
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 in this painting, elements of collage relief are included and camouflaged under the surface of the paint. The collage element relates to Smith’s Black Paintings series from the 1990s, where he departed from the landscape and drew on his wartime experiences. In this painting Smith marries abstract flatness with the landscape and creates 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 symphonic; rich mauve, blues and greens vie with orange and yellow highlights in between the planes of swirling black and white pigment.
Smith’s career was defined by looking forward, not backwards, as each new decade saw him continually challenging himself to push his practice in a new direction. The work from this period around the new millennium is a visual and philosophical summation of his oeuvre up to that point. The all-over abstracts, such as this piece, seem to embody his career trajectory in that they do not hold a fixed point or concept but are alive and pulsing, shapeshifting and unfolding to the viewer over time. Smith was always committed to the process of painting, the art of searching and pushing oneself in the elusive pursuit of achieving a perfect harmony of colour and composition. His curiosity and openness to new ideas were not just artistic ideals, but self-evident truths about life, demonstrating that through the work itself one can approach the ineffable goal, which in his case was the next great painting.
Price: $135,000 CAD
Available for viewing at: Heffel Vancouver
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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