Saturday, April 16, 2011

Artist Interview: Gary Smith

Gary Smith_Swell_2010_Acrylic & pigment on canvas_56 x 46cm

Gary Smith_Ne vile fano (diptych)_2011_Acrylic & pigment on canvas_120 x 205 cm

Can you explain the process behind your work and the inspiration behind this process?

The work I had been doing before the current industrial landscapes was more abstract based landscape/cloudscape paintings. These, like the current work are based on building the picture up through traditional glaze painting techniques. I began to incorporate photographic images through a project funded by ArtsACT were I was looking for new ways of imaging for painting. I had initially looked at screen-printing, (not a new process and in very limited in output size), then large vinyl stencils (which were also limited in their application and prohibitively expensive). I them gained access to a large flat-bed inkjet printer at the Research Inkjet Facility at ANU. As the machine is there for research the range of operating and the materials that can be used is very broad.

Manipulation of the image has moved over time from bitmapped images like Fenced 2009, through to present breaking down and layering of an image through each of the color ranges, as in En vile fano, 2011. The canvas is initially prepared with many layers of silver and pearlescent glazes. These act like a screen in a theatre and add luminosity to the final image. The image to be layered is then split into each of the colors, ie CMYK, and printed separately as a reduced percentage. Between each layer that is printed the whole canvas is glazed with acrylic. This acts to separate each color and to help break the image down. This process is repeated until the image reaches the required level of saturation. These can vary from work to work being 8 layers of printing and 8 layers of glazing to 24 layers of printing and 24 layers of glazing.

I am not interested in making a perfect and clean image but rather what happens when an image is stretching and corrupted. Like my earlier cloudscapes, I use a small section or view of the whole original image, enlarging it shifting and blurring it. I have found and have become hooked on the breakdown of the image. Many of the canvases up close are very hard to read (recognize the image), but from a distance the image becomes almost 3-D or pops into focus.

What are your key influences as an artist?

Certainly the tradition of painting in general. Early influences being the abstract expressionists, Pollock, Rothko, Motherwell and Kline. And again current people like Richter, Scully, Martin and Innes. I am very interested in the surface of the work, the sensuousness that is present there. It is attractive to play with a surface on a canvas the is layered and built up to a silky sheen and balance this with a large industrial image that most people would not find sensuous at all. It about making people look again at something they assume the know and perhaps find something new and beautiful in that form. Refineries are wondrous places.

Gary Smith's current exhibition Grand Designs can be seen at Artereal Gallery until 30 April 2011. To view more works from this exhibition click here.

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