Document Type

Creative work

Publication details

Smith, J 2011, The gentle breath I, artwork (painting).

acrylic & mixed media on paper, 76 x 58cm 2010



Studio Enquiry: The ongoing thread of investigation in my work centres around mark-making and meaning. I am interested in how certain genres of abstraction can generate visual poetic images: developing strategies of mark making within a context of painterly abstraction. There is a raft of seminal influences from late twentieth century painting stretching from movements and styles such as Art Brut and CoBrA, to individuals such as Cy Twombly and Tony Tuckson. I have also carried out extensive observation of the way children begin mark-making and drawing.

However postmodern/post-structuralist theory emerging in the 1980s under the broad term Anti-aesthetics with its emphasis on fragmentation, abjection and hybridity caused a review of the way we ‘read’ modernism. Notions of authorship and originality, ideas of beauty, classical ideals of harmony, order and balance etc. all became ‘decentered’ and deconstruction became the new anti-method.

I am currently concerned with how a performative, gestural mark- making application can possibly move beyond an anti-aesthetic crisis towards a somaesthetic practice for contemporary painting. This involves investigating painting and drawing as forms of thinking that are deeply rooted in the body, ‘physical thinking’: investing materiality of media with a capacity to embody self. This involves a shift in understanding painting as -self expression’ towards engaging in painting as a practice of ‘self actualisation’.

The approach requires developing strategies in application and engagement with materials that encompass psychosomatic mindfulness. I am working with a two layered approach that can become intertwined. The first phase is raw, direct, visceral gesturing which reflects my earlier (and ongoing) engagement with the ‘carnivalesque’ notion of inversion, as I apply it to materials. A second phase of engineering colour relationships and applying transparent glazes and/or shaping compositional options may be seen to operate in a more classical sense of providing structure.

Additional information

Solo exhibition, John Smith, A Measure of Instinct, Watters Gallery, East Sydney, NSW, March 23 - April 9

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