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Gary Smith: Distillation

Gary Smith, Distillation

The Artist

According to the Artereal Gallery, Gary Smith grew up in the industrial town of Geelong on the Bellarine Peninsular of Victoria. He developed an early fascination with the flare from the oil refinery chimney and the local industrial landscape.

Having completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Fine Arts from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Gary Smith went on to complete a Masters of Philosophy in Visual Arts at the Australian National University.

Gary Smith has been a practicing artist since the mid 1980’s and has exhibited his work extensively in both solo and group exhibitions. He has been a finalist in a number of significant art prizes including the Archibald Prize (2012), the Geelong Contemporary Art Prize (2012), the John Fries Memorial Prize (2010), the Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize (2009), and the Albany Art Prize (2009).

His work can be found in both public and private collections around Australia including the Victorian Education Department collection and the Artbank collection.

The work of art

As the Artereal Gallery rightly comments, Smith's canvases are infused with a splendour, opulence, dignity, stateliness, and majestic sumptuousness beyond their original status. The work-a-day grunge of refineries, distilleries, bridges, oilrigs, silos and storage tanks is disguised and imbued with a romantic vision and disguise. These industrial entities hover on the edge of recognition. Rows of silos appear as colonnades in a vast cathedral. Storage tanks masquerade as mystic spheres of possibility; as orbs, globes and shrines or pavilions of desire.

An alchemical combination of traditional glaze painting techniques combined with contemporary image application technologies transforms the everyday constructions into enigmatic, veiled, oblique structures with hazy focal ambiguity. Each of Gary Smith’s works is created with multiple layered applications of lustrous paint glazes and pigment which impart a pearlescent sheen to the surfaces. When combined with the sense of light and distance it gives a cinematic cast to the paintings.

This particular work  demonstrates  Gary's technique in establishing atmospheres, that he developed from tiny fragments from the skies of nineteenth century romantic landscapes and his explorations of Western landscape painting and its relationship to Japanese scroll painting. Despite its underlying industrial imagery, his subsequent bodies of work are still aligned with this reductive approach to landscape and retain the stillness and Oriental ‘sensibility’ and silkiness of surface that is distinctive of his oeuvre.