BCSFA CGP CPE OC RCA
1919 - 2020
acrylic on canvas
signed and on verso signed, titled and dated 1998
67 x 56 in 170.2 x 142.2 cm
Estimate: $60,000 - $80,000
Preview at: Heffel Vancouver
Equinox Gallery, Vancouver
Acquired from the above by the present Private Collection, Vancouver, 1998
Robert Enright, “Entanglements: Gordon Smith and the Art of Picture-Making,” Border Crossings, September 2012, para. 3, https://bordercrossingsmag.com/article/entanglements
Andy Sylvester, Gordon Smith: Don’t Look Back, 2014, page 20
From the late 1990s to 2019, Gordon Smith executed a magnificent group of snow paintings based on West Coast forests in winter. The locations were on Seymour Mountain, in North Vancouver; on Hollyburn and Cypress Mountains, in West Vancouver; and in other North Shore locations that included his own backyard, above Klootchman Park. Smith’s snow paintings are an outstanding example of how he could fluidly slide between abstraction and representation. Some snow paintings were quite abstract, while others were more realistic, but all were concerned with abstract properties. The variety of his treatments was inventive and extraordinary. As Robert Enright commented
"Smith is easily the finest painter of the range and subtleties of snow that this snow-bound country has ever produced…All landscape painters share a common problem; how to find the combination of gestures, marks, colours, textures and forms that convincingly render the landscape they are looking at and hope to approximate. In this regard, Smith’s snow paintings are the white gold standard."
In this beautiful painting, Smith’s use of paint is rich – he piles it on, conveying the feeling of a fresh snowfall thickly covering the dense growth of bushes and grasses. There is a particular aesthetically pleasing feeling to a fresh snowfall on the British Columbia coast, when large flakes cover the vegetation in a fluffy blanket. Smith covers a wall of softly brushed snow-covered vegetation with a pattern of blots of black, white and grey, and black lines of thin branches. The patterning is exquisitely sensitive, and is reminiscent of Jean Paul Riopelle’s watercolours from the early 1950s, with their web of blobs and lines over a colour-field background. Smith was a sophisticated modernist and was very aware of the latest developments in art – he absorbed many influences, integrating them into his unique vision, describing himself as being 100 painters deep.
While Snow III is primarily monochromatic, small patches of yellow, brown and green emerge from its surface like sparks of light. Smith plays with space, and his transition from the vertical wall of snow-covered vegetation to the forest floor in the foreground is effortless as he slides from two- to three-dimensionality. He also moves fluidly between abstraction and representation using his language of paint. Roald Nasgaard commented that Smith’s paintings contain
“double loyalties: Smith’s intense unmediated engagement with a corner of nature, and his equally intensely unmediated engagement with the stuff of paint. His paintings have never merely been images. They are more significantly virtuoso performances of sheer painting, their textures, and their webs of colour and drawing, always virginally fresh.”
In Snow III, Smith wields his brush in a dazzling performance of painterly ability.
Estimate: $60,000 - $80,000
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