Born in Dublin in 1952, John Noel Smith attended Dun Laoghaire School of Art followed by postgraduate studies at der Universität der Künste Berlin. He lived in Berlin for twenty two years where he was an important member of its vibrant art community, returning to Ireland in 2002.
He has exhibited internationally since 1980. His work forms part of important public, private and corporate collections.
He is a member of Aosdána.
John Noel Smith is a brilliant painter. There are few people of whom one can say that with any level of certainty. It is also a distinction that is widely disregarded in the contemporary art world, large sections of which tend to regard painting as a black box, a blanket category of activity about which such qualitative judgments are irrelevant. It is as if a painting is purely the sum of its content and no other considerations apply. Yet to say that he is a brilliant painter does mean something in itself.
It means that, when we look at one of his paintings, it is easy to recognise that he is completely at home within it. It’s not so much that painting is his natural medium, more that it is his natural element. Perhaps he is not quite at home elsewhere in the world. Just as, over time, the process of evolution brought us out of the water and into the air, so he seems to have evolved to survive in the domain of paint. He is paint-adapted, you could say.
Aidan Dunne, Art Critic, Profile 26 – John Noel Smith, Gandon Editions, 2007
The apparent divergence of line and form constitutes the meaning of the whole by drawing our attention to something which seems to have been lost in this complex structure of form: the centre of the picture. Here a clever structure simultaneously hides and reveals the centre of the picture as it does the whole idea: the constitution of a unity of form, line, colour and symbol with a consciously indistinct centre, or core.
Dr. Martina Peters, art historian, translation Woodward/Cooper.
There was a large painting resting against the wall. I had never seen a monotone painting by him before. The three sections, which had balanced the constructed harmonies of the image, were struggling with a wall of heavily painted, almost lacquered luminous black, which strove to expand beyond the confines of its rectangle. The upper section, a dull patina compared to this intense surface, the undersection another tonality of black, with hints of spotted colour underpainting, glowing with intensity. This was the process unveiled, the beginning of what might be another encrusted surface of paint, but without the frequency of tone and colour that would define the visual character of the image. This Work could stand alone in most exhibitions of contemporary painting, a solitary invocation of Abstract Expressionism on a grand scale, yet it was only the initial moment in a process beyond the apparent simplicities of such work. The unfinished works seem to defy the eventual linear marks, when the surfaces are themselves articulated by the painterly process. It’s as if the process echoes the eventual marks. The United Field Painting, or UFP, triptych, which hung beside it, exemplified the nature of these changes and perceptions. It shared the same scale, the warm encrusted surfaces of swirling underpainting, and the same precise balance of the related spaces. The muted sap greens with linear asymmetrical geometric movements inferred simplicity, yet refused to conform to the obvious nature of such constructs. It was the intuitive stroke, confirming a geometrical form, yet mutating the simplicity by the indigenous surface quality of the paint. This reflective ambience, mutated through the underpainting surfaces of black and white, disavows definition. It seems to inherently characterise its own motivation, while stretching the limits of its initial appearance. This conflict, a stretching of the boundaries of form, within the painted surface, integrates the image into the second section, while electrifying the nature of such a balance.
The ogham-inspired lower green verticals, appeared to almost submerge into the white creamy surfaces, as if the stones upon which they were originally engraved had become porous layers of sun dried limestone. There is a definite feeling of light and heat to these surfaces, with their emotive subterranean black. The occasional wisp of the brush, as a shadowed mark, which occasionally suffuses the surface in a solid line, an ascending score of integrated notations, steadily articulates a determined control over the painted surface plain. These wavering yet solid verticals are also horizontal apertures, fleeting sightings of green and red marks, amidst the meadow of their enclosure.
The third rectangle, a black, almost flat surface, with the faded memory of impassioned weight above it is sprinkled with the opposite balancing process. The under painting appears to have been a cacophony of colour, a warm palette of muted yellows and reds. These patches of pink, red and green spots shine through like stellar notations. The black suppresses a surface, where the colour beneath still breathes its spasmodic memory as a fluctuating natural form.
Ciarán Bennett, President of the International Association of Art Critics (Ireland), Irish Arts Review, Autum 2005, Vol. 22 No.