Gordon Appelbe Smith
BCSFA CGP CPE OC RCA
1919 - 2020
acrylic and collage on canvas
signed and on verso signed and dated 2017
39 3/4 x 45 1/2 in 101 x 115.6 cm
Estimate: $30,000 - $40,000
Acquired directly from the Artist by the present Private Collection, Vancouver
Andy Sylvester et al., Gordon Smith: Don’t Look Back, 2014, essay by Ian Wallace, page 123
Gordon Smith is an important West Coast modernist, who throughout his career has continued to absorb innovations in the art world and to push his own boundaries, and whose spirit of experimentation and fine body of work are respected by both collectors and fellow artists. Smith in return is supportive of his contemporaries and of younger generations of artists. Well-known photo-based painter Ian Wallace acknowledged the artist’s importance, writing, “Smith was an active member of the next generation, who in the 1940s and 1950s, continued to introduce the Modern Movement to the region. He was part of a generation of painters, architects, poets, musicians, writers, educators, designers and a large audience of individuals that were the creators of a progressive social life; they supported a vision of social progress and experimentation and the means of expression to convey it, which was inherited by the next generation up to the present.”
In 1951, Smith had traveled to San Francisco, where he studied at the California School of Fine Arts. Here he came into contact with artists such as Elmer Bischoff, a teacher who challenged his concept of painting. While he was in San Francisco, the artists whose work he saw, such as Clyfford Still, Richard Diebenkorn and Arshile Gorky, further expanded his horizons. Smith became aware of the physicality of paint, the possibilities of its handling, and how its manifestation on the surface affects the viewer, and this discovery would always be a part of his oeuvre.
This work is from Smith’s 2017 Collage Paintings series. Smith has used collage elements before in his work, such as sticks and bits of cloth in his Black series, and text elements such as stenciled words. In Untitled, he makes collage a prime focus, building his surface with paint and paper, and incorporating torn pages from sources such as art magazines, newspaper articles and Art Gallery of Ontario and Heffel catalogues (such as a glimpse of Jack Shadbolt’s Coast Indian, sold in Heffel’s spring 2017 auction). He includes diverse and evocative image fragments, as well as text elements, tossing them all together in a playful mix. These fragments express memories and emotions, distilled from his personal experiences and random images he is drawn to.
The way Smith wields paint is free and spontaneous - he strokes, splatters and drips his pigment on. His paint palette is predominantly black, but also includes grey, grey-green and white, applied to the canvas with brushwork that is fluid and textural. Dabs and patches of pulsing colour - red, purple, blue, yellow, pink and orange - flicker throughout the work. In Untitled, Smith has created an activated, all-over surface in which the collage elements dance in the dark paint. It is a rich and evocative work, a fine example of his continually inventive, modernist approach.
Estimate: $30,000 - $40,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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