He has, for one thing, a mercurial mind with a peculiarly Irish, literary deviousness to it, forever given to pouncing on the ordinary and mobilising its latent madness. Like it or not, the spectator is soon forced into a mental trot, then a mad scramble and a dash just to keep pace with the headlong rush of his ideas.
Oddly enough, the full scope of life finds its way into his paintings, but it is a life viewed from unsettling angles, obliquely, crazily. He gathers treasures with magpie zeal, but the treasures he collects are not innocuous, glittering trinkets, they are gems of paradox, nuggets of irony, veritable diamonds of nonsense. These gleanings are served up to us as visual conundrums, often wrapped in jackets of fabulous colour.
The sub-tropical vegetation of Kerry, and the sensual pleasure of eating exotic fruits: an empire of the senses. The halved fruits echo the flatness of the canvas; the gash of pigment denies the image; the surface is voluptuous, rich, dense. The paintings are immensely concentrated, so much so that the intensity is almost cloying. But Smith has reckoned on this excessiveness. He deliberately, this once, worked the pictures to an exaggerated pitch of sensuality: “like the city-dweller’s conception of the countryside” impossibly idyllic.
John Noel Smith.
Berlin: Galerie Folker Skulima, Volker Diehl, Galerie 16 Stockholm, 1986.