This exhibition of thirty rarely seen landscapes brings the gallery full circle to our last showing of Matthew Smith’s work 21 years ago. Then, in 1990, we exhibited a broad oeuvre of nudes, portraits and still lives. The present exhibition of Matthew Smith landscapes explores his methods and the moody, almost ethereal, quality to his paint. Breaking new ground at the time with his technique, the resulting composition and colours literally draw the breath.
The landscapes seem to have been scooped out of sky and soil. There is a direct relationship between artist and nature with no intermediation of a studio, sketch or photograph. He did not intellectualise, ponder his subject. His landscapes are here and now, raw and vital. There are stories of Matthew Smith painting in freezing temperatures, in the teeth of the Mistral, in France, for example and his Cornish landscapes brood with a sublime intensity.
Cornwall were his early landscapes and south of France – a happy period for the artist in the 1930’s – reveals a maturing and more confident flowering of this particular art form. His brushstrokes are rapid, almost feverish, as if, and this is where chance comes in, nature would move on and undo the moment in time he is trying to capture. It is this fleeting moment, perhaps never to be repeated, that inspires Smith. The result is a textured canvas, of almost poetic luminosity and colour.
The mastering of nature by man is a narrative that goes back to the beginning of time. It is a constant in music and literature as well as art. Smith’s landscapes, the methods he used to create them, are a singular contribution to this great opus of humankind.
The exhibition will later be shown at
Victoria Art Gallery, Bath
27 June – 5 September 2010