LOT 007

1919 - 2020

Tofino I
acrylic on canvas
signed and on verso titled and dated 2013 on the gallery label
60 x 75 in 152.4 x 190.5 cm

Estimate: $50,000 - $70,000

Preview at: Heffel Vancouver

Equinox Gallery, Vancouver
Private Collection, Vancouver

Gordon Smith: The Reflective Canvas, 2009, film, https://movingimages.ca/store/products.php?gordon_smith, accessed January 12, 2021
Andy Sylvester, Gordon Smith: Don’t Look Back, 2014, the similar 2013 canvas entitled Tofino II reproduced page 146

One of the recurrent themes in Gordon Smith’s work was that of beaches strewn with driftwood and the colourful flotsam that collects at and above the tideline. This superb work also incorporates another of his interests that evolved over time – tangles of branches and stems that criss-cross the ground of forest and seashore subjects. As he stated in the 2009 film The Reflective Canvas, “I’ve always loved tangles, that crossing over of things.”

In Tofino I, these delicate branches, varying in colour from white to black to greenish yellow, create an overall pattern, a screen that pulls us up to the surface and covers it edge to edge. Our eye shifts back and forth between the tracery of organic lines at the front of the picture plane to the underlayer of sand, earth and driftwood, punctuated by patches of colour. Our viewpoint is at the edge, looking down, kept at a distance by the branches. Smith carefully controls the elements of his painting, such as the grey sand, which allows spatial breathing space under the lines and against the darker land.

For the artist, the landscape was just the starting point; his work was also concerned with the qualities of the paint itself - its handling, its textural and gestural manipulation. In Tofino I, his paint is finely handled, and in some areas, built up in complex layers. Light is created by pale pigment, from white and grey to a light peach, as his light source is even and non-directional. Splashes of bright pigments, seeming to be tossed randomly in the undergrowth, create accents in the more natural colour palette; these patches of blue, green and orange suggest leaves and bits of manmade materials.

Smith was a modernist, a prominent figure in a generation of painters, architects, poets, musicians and writers on the West Coast dating back to the 1950s who engaged with the modern movement in the arts. He continued to absorb influences all his life and was an inspiration to many artists – and he was considered a bridge between the generations. He was very aware of both the past and current practices of contemporary art, such as the scribbled, feverish lines in the abstract work of Cy Twombly. Smith’s point of departure, however, was organic rather than urban, using the patterns of stems and branches weathered by the seasons and changes in growth, some sun-bleached and others green and alive. His web of lines functions both abstractly and as an element of the landscape; forming an almost nest-like structure, it is fluid and elegant. In the lyrical and beautiful Tofino I, Smith shows his mastery of balance between landscape and abstraction.

Estimate: $50,000 - $70,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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