09 April 2022

Oil Paintings part 3/3 2021 #returntoconsciousness

Continuing from the previous two oil painting posts for 2021, this post features the latest two paintings both approximately 1.7 x 2 metre. Early stages of both are featured in the photos of post 2 where the flat areas of colour are applied to activate the surface. As can be seen below, the new method of painting with multiple mediums enables overlay whilst retaining the vibrancy of the colour, something with paint alone would lead to sinking and heaviness. I also want, despite the element of impasto and surface texture, complete freshness to the work, as if the painting has just been made. This characteristic runs through all stylistic periods of my work. As I am painting on the floor, all sides are worked from and the final upright position of the completed work is not decided on until later stages. This can be seen in the image below; part of the process is to look at the work in progress for protracted time, whilst other things are going on so in part unconscious seeing, locating future actions.

Both paintings seen from the balcony of the studio in situ during painting

Side light from the four very high south facing studio windows have led to the consideration of light across the surface. Surface of Colour was a previous exhibition project and my exhibition at Sauerbier House, South Australia was called Colour, Surface, Light.

Oil paintings require six months to fully cure (or even longer). With the types of mediums and the way they affect the paint plus the fluidity of the application means that this time of rest can be decisive in whether a painting could be exhibit able as the surface changes in the process. This part of painting is a case in point where the drip element bubbled and I thought this would not dry/cure well. At the time of writing, the surface is promising. Therefore, titling the work and documenting (website) is only completed several months after making to ensure the work is viable for presentation. 

Reflective statement on #returntoconsciousness

Recent work over the past 18 months has been studio based and reflective of the international placements of the preceding 24 months. Taking as a point of reference, Jean Dubuffet’s notion of non-place (1), my practice has evolved through a parallel questioning of objectivity with a methodology using multiple 2D media exploring memory and experience of place. With diffused imagery there is an interrogation of reality, with dense clustering of line, shape and colour, intersecting graffiti like gestures and marks. Rhythm and repetition, spontaneity and design are all features of current drawings and paintings, an exploration of alternative reality. 

On gesture (from previous blog post Oil Paintings part 1)


The kind of gesture I am concerned with is fluid spontaneous and fleeting. The movement is instinctive and unconscious; whilst making ones thinking is deliberately abstracted so that intention is absent and response is unguided in a cerebral way. The state is somewhere else. Getting to this point or place takes a little time and concentration, not just within a day but over the time of making, a week or two. It is definitely the studio thing; concentration to the point of transcendence, if that does not sound too pompous! But, to focus on the specific. What of gesture? It is a recording of the mind in motion. Certainly more to do with movement, process and journey rather than end point or product. It is possibly something akin to Zuihitsu, the Japanese method of writing that translates loosely as 'following the brush'.  Another correlation with Zuihitsu is the element of fragmentation. Areas of colour are brought together as if by accident, parts are relating through juxtaposition rather than by design. As ever, the image is made only by a process that has no defined outcome. The element of gesture applies to many artists, Saura and de Kooning for example. However, with Saura and de Kooning there is a figurative cohesion; the gesture is part of the construction of a subject (a figure).  My stance however is that the mark itself is the both the subject and the image. 

(1) Barbican Art Gallery. Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty current main exhibition May 2021


During the year A4 Luxelakes Art Museum, Chengdu requested a short video reflecting on the time since 60 Days of Lockdown (see previous post), what has changed and happened in the time since the pandemic. The video was to be shown during a video festival at the museum. 

07 March 2022

'Mark Rothko 2021' 17th International Painting Symposium , Mark Rothko Centre, Daugavpils, Latvia

Postponed from 2020, attendance at the Symposium in September 2021 was the first international placement since the pandemic.  It was a chance to produce new work alongside international peers and present in the internationally recognised Mark Rothko Art Centre. It was very positive that so many of the participants planned were able to attend. Being the first placement for 18 months, we all felt trepidation at being even face to face, let alone making new work in a short schedule on a dedicated practice based meeting. In the event, we achieved remarkable results in an energetic, focused almost performative symposium although personally and perhaps naturally I would have liked longer to reflect on progress!

Symposium exhibition installation with right Barbara Nyst and Rene de Rooze

First stages of two of the canvases; floor working throughout

Symposium participants: Māris Upzars (Latvia) Joanna Pottle (USA) Amy Vensel (USA) Kuba Janyst (Poland) Barbara Nyst (Poland) Arvid Boecker (Germany) Leon Phillips (Canada) Rene de Rooze (Netherlands) Andrew Smith (Wales). Curator: Tatjana Černova. Director: Māris Čačka

Covid 19 and travel: Notably were the long haul artists travelling from New Mexico and Vancouver to attend with extended journeys into Europe to qualify for entry. For myself documentation could only be completed within 48 hours of travel and the this makes for uncertain planning. The Centre assisted in organising our pre travel test for return.

Working with Leon Phillips (left) and Kuba Janyst

The studio situation was compact, we were working at close contact and this benefited cross dialogue of practice based method, discussion and creative energy. If we had been in separate studios on our own then the cross fertization of activity would have been harder to experience and identify. We noted on the energy of the creative process during the 9 days on production time. There was a lot of discussion around process and materials, paints and mediums. Artists had shipped papers and paints before hand, or brought them with them to supplement those supplied by the Centre. I took a large case with extra fluorescent paint and mediums.  Symposium work (four of five paintings produced) will be held in the Mark Rothko Art Centre permanent collection and exhibited in further exhibitions regionally and nationally as the Centre is pro-active in organising and lending collection works.

Hekela acrylic on canvas 120 x 120 cm 2021 (collection Mark Rothko Art Centre)

Mihaila acrylic on canvas 120 x 120 cm 2021 (collection Mark Rothko Art Centre)

In the final exhibition constructed in the last two days of the Symposium (so we could all attend the opening event) four of my paintings were selected and remain in the permanent collection of the Art Centre. The fifth returned with me, called Svente after the lake we visited, it was the only one of the group not to feature a street name from the fortress area. 

Corner of studio with five paintings in progress

Svente acrylic on canvas 120 x 120 cm 202. (Anecdote: title referred to the lake near to Daugavpils that we visited for a swim excursion. I cycled there with Barbara Nyst).

Installation of the four paintings entering the permanent collection. Left: Amy Vensel

I was grateful to receive an International Opportunities Fund grant from Wales Arts International and Arts Council of Wales. In application and report I emphasised that the Symposium only operates with in person attendance without online alternative under Covid 19 restriction. The importance of face to face meetings, collaborations, encounters has to be emphasised in the current climate of post pandemic future planning because the close contact of working, discussing, looking and understanding others processes, methods and ideas was so worth the small extra effort to safely attend under regulations and so valuable in terms of reinforcing practice and position in a supportive yet critical environment. I would advocate the continued significance of face to face encounter in terms of creative and cultural experience. 

Konstantina acrylic on canvas 120 x 120 cm 2021 (collection Mark Rothko Art Centre)

Aleksandra acrylic on canvas 120 x 120 cm 2021 (collection Mark Rothko Art Centre)
Aleksandra (detail) webpage banner for the 17th Symposium Exhibition

Mark Rothko Symposium 2021 Catalogue 

Andrew Smith Statement


Recent work over the past 18 months has been studio based and reflective of my international placements of the preceding 24 months. Taking as a point of reference the idea of non-place, my painting has evolved through a parallel questioning of objectivity with methodology exploring memory and experience. With diffused imagery there appears an interrogation of reality, a dense clustering of line, shape and colour; intersections, gestures and directions. Rhythm and repetition, spontaneity and design are indicative of current work, combining both the rational and emotional state of making.


My painting methodology of working on location is defined as creating ‘scapes’ (involving multiple facets of a subject) evolved through both exploratory studies and in the production of a definitive project portfolio for exhibition. The overarching aim is the continued deconstruction of existing method to forge a new image, one apparently not encountered before. On short or longer residency situations there is relational time to assimilate surroundings and context, hence the work necessarily shifts and evolves depending on the place; the method explores the physiognomy of location.

17th International Painting Symposium Mark Rothko Exhibition, Mark Rothko Centre, Daugavpils, Latvia ISBN 978-9934-595-23-6

Supported by an International Opportunities Fund Grant from Wales Arts International