Gordon Appelbe Smith
BCSFA CGP CPE OC RCA
1919 - 2020
acrylic on canvas
signed and on verso titled and dated 1996
50 x 67 in 127 x 170.2 cm
Estimate: $60,000 - $80,000
Sold for: $109,250
Masters Gallery Ltd., Calgary
Private Collection, Calgary
Keith Wallace, Gordon Smith: Recent Work, Vancouver Art Gallery, 1988, page 4
In 1995 Gordon Smith made a trip to France, where he viewed Claude Monet’s home and gardens in Giverny. On his return to Vancouver, inspired by Monet’s extraordinary paintings of his ponds with water lilies, he began his lush Pond series. Later, he examined water and its reflections in a natural setting, as seen in Reflections, which is a close-up depiction of a section of the forest floor that fills the canvas edge to edge.
On Vancouver’s north shore, with his backyard pond and the surrounding woods close at hand, Smith did not have to go far to find his inspiration for works like this. Reflections is spatially ambiguous – up is down and down is up as standing water seeps and pools on the forest floor, reflecting the light of the sky, possibly clouds, and the forest vegetation above. This ambiguity leads us back to a contemplation of the abstract qualities of form, paint handling and space. Smith juxtaposes dark and light – rich, deep tones of earth under scatterings of bright leaves on its surface, all lit up by the bright white reflecting the illumination from the sky.
A delightful and freeing disorientation results from the patterns of vegetation Smith depicts and his shifts between abstraction and representation. The foreground patch of white can be read both as a landscape element and as a flat, painterly field. Stems and grasses project upward and outward from their roots and cross each other, their profusion of lines overwhelming the viewer’s eye. The scene is a visual maze, and our vision pops back and forth between abstract patterning and the recognition of a landscape. Reflections is an exceptional work from this period: Smith’s paintwork is lush, and dabs of various hues throughout – pale blue, orange, purple and red - add to the sensual enjoyment of the painting.
Smith’s restless and inquisitive mind led him to absorb influences from his early trips to New York and his studies in San Francisco in 1951 at the California School of Fine Arts, where he was affected by the work of Elmer Bischoff, Clyfford Still, Richard Diebenkorn and Arshile Gorky. Smith emerged in the 1950s as part of a generation of Vancouver artists that included influential leaders such as Jack Shadbolt and B.C. Binning, whose work was on the leading edge of their time. Smith is always searching and evolving, making him a leading proponent of West Coast modernism to this day.
Breaking new ground in his work has always been important, as he moved through cycles of Abstract Expressionism, Hard-edge, and on to fluid works that fused abstraction and landscape, such as Reflections. As Keith Wallace wrote, “Change for Smith is a way of rejuvenating his relationship with the process of painting and of acknowledging that there is always more to explore – thinking one has 'mastered' painting could in fact signify an end. He desires to keep his painting alive.” A respected luminary of the Vancouver art scene, Smith continues to inspire artists and collectors with his ardent devotion to painting.
Estimate: $60,000 - $80,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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