BCSFA CGP CPE OC RCA
1919 - 2020
oil on canvas, circa 1960
22 3/4 x 39 3/4 in, 57.8 x 101 cm
Estimate: $30,000 - $40,000 CAD
James Rottman Fine Art, Toronto
Private Collection, British Columbia
Ian M. Thom and Andrew Hunter, Gordon Smith: The Act of Painting, 1997, Vancouver Art Gallery, the circa 1948 oil Untitled (Wreck Beach) reproduced page 65
In 1951, Gordon Smith traveled to San Francisco to attend the summer session of the California School of Fine Art, where he was taught by Elmer Bischoff. It was a turning point in his career and his development as a modernist. He was exposed to the work of artists such as Richard Diebenkorn, Clyfford Still and Arshile Gorky, and Smith credited the Abstract Expressionists with impressing on him the importance of the properties of paint. But although he was experimenting with abstraction throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he could not leave the landscape behind. Untitled is a fine example of that - in which Smith fluidly slips back and forth between abstraction and the representation of a coastal scene. Our attention is pulled to the surface of the painting by the background areas of colour, which read as abstract colour fields of greyish white and yellow. The same thing happens with the colour areas in the foreground, while through the centre, the landscape asserts itself, sinking into dimensional space through a more representational approach to water, trees and mountains. We keenly feel the push-pull between representation and abstraction here. A white shape rises from the bottom edge, crossing the various layers of the painting, likely a piece of sculptural driftwood. Smith had portrayed vertical driftwood like this in more realistic works, such as the circa 1948 painting Untitled (Wreck Beach), and its sculptural presence commands the attention of the viewer. Smith exhibits luscious, softly modulated brushwork in this painting, which gives great pleasure to the eye. His command of space is impressive in this modernist work, which is both formal and playful.
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