Artwork Detail

750 Painting
Paramount Award Winner, 2001 Wallace Art Awards.

Peter Gibson Smith’s 750 Painting is a testament to the vast range of historical influences that inform and impress upon the contemporary artist. In the centuries since Vasari published his famous Lives of the great artists of his era (1550), the art of writing about art has evolved in as many directions as art itself. In the Western world the fine arts have evolved from a trade, to a profession, to a highly academic field of enquiry. The result is that anyone who has studied art formally in the English-speaking world is likely to have encountered many of the books whose spines and titles form the tiles of Gibson Smith’s delightfully tessellated artist’s palette.

The appearance of a hole or gap precisely where one’s thumb would go if one were to try to take up and use this palette to paint with is curious. It suggests this palette wouldn’t work in practice, that it is insufficient for the job it’s intended to perform. There may be a need for even more knowledge, more titles to fill the gap; or, alternatively, it may suggest that there can never be enough titles: that much more than books is necessary for the artist to practice successfully. It is a subtle conundrum – of course, the study of nature, of natural appearances, of application to the methods and media of art making is indispensable – yet all of those technical aspects of art are discussed in these books. The reliance on books and reproductions is a familiar theme in the careers of many New Zealand artists, who have often had to rely on reproductions for inspiration, as their access to great works of European art has historically been limited by distance.

While obviously a celebration of the diversity of art practice as reflected in writing, Gibson Smith’s emblematic palette is also an acknowledgement that at its core, the true nature of artistic practice lies in the artist’s choice of stylistic approach to the subject matter – a choice of approach which, however considered, is inevitably styled as much by art historical precedent as by the artist’s individuality.

Catalogue text:
Published on the occasion of the Twenty Wallace Art Awards Paramount Winners Exhibition.
14 February to 22 April 2012 at The Pah Homestead, TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre and 2 August to 30 September 2012 at the Wallace Gallery Morrinsville.
Egg tempera on inlaid gesso on wooden panels
1880 x 3100 x 20mm
Accession number

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