Gordon Appelbe Smith
BCSFA CGP CPE OC RCA
1919 - 2020
Pacific Rim #6
acrylic on canvas
signed and on verso titled and dated 2005
60 x 67 in 152.4 x 170.2 cm
Estimate: $50,000 - $70,000
Sold for: $73,250
Preview at: PacArt, Toronto
Equinox Gallery, Vancouver
Private Collection, Vancouver
Andy Sylvester et al., Gordon Smith: Don’t Look Back, 2014, essay by Ian Wallace, page 123, reproduced page 147
Equinox Gallery, Vancouver, Gordon Smith, 2005
“Smith is a painter in the modern tradition: free to mark the canvas in any way imaginable, free of the need to illustrate the specific subject and to allow the medium be simply the material trace of his presence in the world, as an affirmation of self. Surrounded by the grandeur of the landscape in the regional setting of the Pacific Northwest, his artistic vocabulary inevitably responds to nature.”
As a modernist, Gordon Smith freely gathers inspiration from many sources, both historical and contemporary. In his studies during a trip to San Francisco in 1951, he was exposed to American Abstract Expressionists such as Clyfford Still, Richard Diebenkorn and Elmer Bischoff, awakening in him an awareness of gesture and an interest in the materiality of paint. While still retaining what he gained from this experience, in Pacific Rim #6, he reaches back to the work of Group of Seven painter Arthur Lismer.
Smith traveled to Long Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island, to see where Lismer had painted almost every summer from 1951 to 1968, depicting inner forest subjects and beachscapes. Long Beach is exposed to the pounding of the Pacific Ocean, and many interesting objects are thrown up on its shore. Lismer’s beachscapes were close-ups of the tumble of shells, seaweed, plant materials and driftwood that he found there. His approach was textural and his forms recognizable, although roughly rendered, and his works exuded the raw vitality that he sensed there.
Pacific Rim #6, like Lismer’s beachscapes, is based on a snapshot of a section of beach blown up in scale, but abstracted, with the work’s all-over surface an entanglement of white-based thick strokes of paint that writhe and entwine. Smith does not entirely leave landscape behind - his abstraction is informed by it. These pale paint-strokes are based on the forms of driftwood bleached white by long exposure to sunlight. They criss-cross an underlying layer rich in colour - the flotsam of the beach rendered in dabs and patches of orange, gold, mint, dark green, pink, tones of purple, brown and grey.
Equally important to his image is his awareness of the materiality of paint itself and his play with elements in the abstracted surface. Dripping runs down the canvas, evidence of the painterly process, and these thin lines come forward and spatially define the front of the picture plane. Smith also scatters letters through the right side of the work, a reference to traces of language and, possibly, in a more modern sense, to graffiti. In this masterful work from the Pacific Rim series, Smith immerses us in the sensuality of paint, in the beauty of the pale radiance that dominates his palette, and in the ever-shifting movement of form that mesmerizes the eye.
Estimate: $50,000 - $70,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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