A quiet intensity characterises Gemma Smith’s sustained engagement with painting and its vicissitudes. Through a practice that remains exploratory in its commitment to abstraction and the emotive force of mark making, Smith has developed a distinctive formal language. Far from stagnant, this langauge has morphed over time, transitioning from the measured geometry and linear shapes of her early work to the serpentine Tangle paintings with their sweeping brushmarks. Recent work has become more emphatically gestural as the density of paint and the tug of war between translucency and opacity assumes expressive status. In all her compositions, however, we sense a tension between states of control. These are paintings that appear shaped by the interdependency of intuition and intention; there is a looseness to Smith’s application of paint, be it linear or undulatory, but also a deep care.
The deep care Smith has for the craft of painting is nowhere more evident than in her careful and nuanced use of colour. Whether working with paint straight from the tube, so that it throbs with frank vitality, or building up delicate palettes of almost imperceptible tonal shifts, Smith understands how colours work off each other. Zero is insistent and assertive in its apprehension of the power of pigment. The work is tidal; a brilliant blue surges out of the canvas’ murky depths, tripping through heavy greens as it diagonally washes the the composition and reaches into the top right hand corner. While the brushstrokes are worn lightly, almost transparent, once amassed, the entrapment of colour reads like a dense overlay. This painting draws opacity out of the diaphanous and the barely there.
Other works by Gemma Smith
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