The Modernist Painting of Gordon Smith

A painting of a tangle of grass and twigs near a creekCreekside Grasses #1, acrylic on canvas

Gordon Smith came into his own as an artist around the time that Abstract Expressionism was eclipsing the American art scene. He is now revered as one of the premier modernist painters of Canada, and has a solid following in the United States as well.


Smith’s paintings are, at first glance, impressionistic reflections on the forests and plant life of north America, featuring thin, wiry trees packed tightly together – Smith then takes this naturalist framework steps further and creates an overlapping, jumbled tangle of branches (or, apparent branches, in paintings that walk a delicate line between abstraction and impressionist representation.)


A lithograph of plants reflected in a pondEspinko, lithograph on paper

I really like the ambiguity of Smith’s paintings, and the way that he is able to walk that fine line between representation and pure abstraction, creating images that are softly abstracted and require a second look to fully discover. His work is now part of the permanent collection of several renowned museums including the National Gallery of Canada and the Smithsonian Institution in the United States.


A painting of tangled grass next to a creekCreekside Grasses, acrylic on canvas

Written by: Dallas Jeffs
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