Wylie: Abstract filled with essence of landscape

Despite their being completely abstract, Smith’s works in the current show might make viewers think of landscapes.

Pete Smith, bcc-0281b, 2014, oil on burlap, 48 x 36 in. (121.9 x 91.4 cm)

Pete Smith, bcc-0281b, 2014, oil on burlap, 48 x 36 in. (121.9 x 91.4 cm)

If you love the scent of oil paint, come by the Kelowna Art Gallery to inhale its lovely aroma, which is currently faintly wafting through our Reynolds Gallery space. Based in Ontario, emerging artist Pete Smith created seven new paintings for his solo exhibition here and they still smell fresh from the studio.

Despite their being completely abstract, Smith’s works in the current show might make viewers think of landscapes. This could be a particularly Canadian affliction, given the prominence of landscape painting in our cultural history. Or maybe it is a universal tendency to imagine an implied landscape when viewing images of organic forms largely painted in earth colours. And who is to say Smith himself has not absorbed landscape tropes that are finding their way into his abstract paintings without his conscious knowledge?

The artist’s averred source for the shapes and compositions of these new paintings was stills from an animated video (playing on an iPod nano installed in the gallery) he made from images of his earlier paintings and drawings. It would be hard to think of a subject more self-referential for an artist, and an image comes to mind of him walking along a moebius strip.

The paintings in the show are large and luscious and offer a rich visual experience for the viewer. Smith seems unhindered by current slurs against his kind of painting (insults hurled in the media recently include crapstraction and zombie formalism) and says he is happy to be a painter and loves everything about it – from its history and traditions to its physical qualities. In fact the real subject of his work, I think, is other artists’ paintings – the rich loam of the history of painting.

Pete Smith

Each of Smith’s works reads as the finished sum of its own process and making. Creating a painting is a lived act, a lived experience, and a viewer cannot help picking up on some vestigial half-life of that spent energy.

In addition to his works on canvas for this exhibition, the artist made a new, unique artist’s book that includes images and writings of his own, as well as snippets of Emily Carr’s writing and that of his great grandmother. This book is a rich and layered piece, with images, drawing, and writing layered upon the pages. The book provides a delicious sidebar to the viewer’s experience of looking at his paintings.

Pete Smith grew up in North Bay, Ontario and spent some time teaching high school art there before going back for an MFA in studio at the University of Guelph, which he finished in 2007. He currently lives in Bowmanvile, Ontario, and teaches studio classes in Toronto at OCAD University, and the University of Toronto.

This exhibition is part of an on-going look at the Kelowna Art Gallery at the current state of the medium or world of contemporary painting. Pete Smith: New Frontier runs until April 5 If you love the scent of oil paint, come by the Kelowna Art Gallery to inhale its lovely aroma, which is currently faintly wafting through our Reynolds Gallery space. Based in Ontario, emerging artist Pete Smith created seven new paintings for his solo exhibition here and they still smell fresh from the studio.

Despite their being completely abstract, Smith’s works in the current show might make viewers think of landscapes. This could be a particularly Canadian affliction, given the prominence of landscape painting in our cultural history. Or maybe it is a universal tendency to imagine an implied landscape when viewing images of organic forms largely painted in earth colours. And who is to say Smith himself has not absorbed landscape tropes that are finding their way into his abstract paintings without his conscious knowledge?

The artist’s averred source for the shapes and compositions of these new paintings was stills from an animated video (playing on an iPod nano installed in the gallery) he made from images of his earlier paintings and drawings. It would be hard to think of a subject more self-referential for an artist, and an image comes to mind of him walking along a moebius strip.

The paintings in the show are large and luscious and offer a rich visual experience for the viewer. Smith seems unhindered by current slurs against his kind of painting (insults hurled in the media recently include crapstraction and zombie formalism) and says he is happy to be a painter and loves everything about it – from its history and traditions to its physical qualities. In fact the real subject of his work, I think, is other artists’ paintings – the rich loam of the history of painting.

Each of Smith’s works reads as the finished sum of its own process and making. Creating a painting is a lived act, a lived experience, and a viewer cannot help picking up on some vestigial half-life of that spent energy.

In addition to his works on canvas for this exhibition, the artist made a new, unique artist’s book that includes images and writings of his own, as well as snippets of Emily Carr’s writing and that of his great grandmother. This book is a rich and layered piece, with images, drawing, and writing layered upon the pages. The book provides a delicious sidebar to the viewer’s experience of looking at his paintings.

Pete Smith grew up in North Bay, Ontario and spent some time teaching high school art there before going back for an MFA in studio at the University of Guelph, which he finished in 2007. He currently lives in Bowmanvile, Ontario, and teaches studio classes in Toronto at OCAD University, and the University of Toronto.

This exhibition is part of an on-going look by the Kelowna Art Gallery at the current state of the medium or world of contemporary painting. Pete Smith: New Frontier runs until April 5.

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