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Michael Smither’s “Here & Now” paintings convey mood and spirituality

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Michael Smither, Rain Squalls, Kennedy Bay

Michael Smither

Here & Now

Artis Gallery

November 9 – 29

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

For sixty years Michael Smither has painted his immediate environment – his family, the objects he was surrounded by and the landscapes he inhabited.

These landscapes began in New Plymouth with paintings that often featured the rocky shore and  the  ever-present Mt Egmont/Taranaki  and he later moved to the Coromandel where he continued to paint the local landscapes.

While his early landscapes are crisp with light colour and detail he has progressively abstracted the colours and shape he finds in these landscapes and his latest exhibition sees him further creating simplified expressionist approach.

Where his early works  had an emphasis  on surface and light his later works and particularly the works in his latest exhibition “Here & Now” are focussed on light and colour. These colours are connections to some of his previous works  where music and colour have harmonic relationships.,

These expressionist landscapes convey  mood and spirituality, echoing the desire of artists from medieval times to convey ideas through the wonder of intense colours as was seen in the stained glass of churches – an interest also seen in Colin McCahon’s ecclesiastical projects with James Hackshaw.

“Here & Now” can be seen as a reference to and a recreation of the landscape images which were produced on Cooks first voyage to New Zealand. The reference to those often stacked profile drawings of the coastline can be seen in the large “Coromandel Peninsula Quintet” which as well as depicting the changing landscape forms also capture the changing moods of the area.

Where Cooks images were designed to record the changing landscape forms for future navigators Smither aims to create effects of colour, light and atmosphere with images of emotional power that appeal to the viewers’ senses.

There are impressionist flourishes in some of the works, particularly obvious in  “Rain Squalls, Kennedy Bay” where the bands of rain are more like columns of light.

There are also surreal aspects to some of the work with the bulbous clouds and crumpled landforms in “Haka”

Michael Smither, Kennedy’s Bay

The use of colour to convey the effects of light can be seen in “Kennedy’s Bay” where the shimmering yellow behind the two sentinel-like headlands sharpens their outline.

A couple of the works take an almost abstract approach. In “Towards the End” the blue hills of the landscape appear to merge with the background and in the masterly “Peninsula Rain Squall”  colour and light  infuse the landscape so the forms begins to dissolve.

In this series of works Smither has created landscapes that are part representation and part dreamscapes  where the interplay of bold light and intense colour  convey the aura or mana of the landforms, sea and sky.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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