John Noel Smith
18 January – 2 March 2019
About John Noel Smith
Heard song is sweet, but sweeter is an unheard … and this also applies to Smith's work. His interest is in exploration, sometimes in digging. And sometimes he wants to express in the image surface quite unequivocally what he knows exactly. He then works with what detaches and crumbles and is unfinished and unstructured. In doing so, he devotes himself to an inner pattern, below the dominant pattern or outside its sphere of influence.
Similar to a sound that produces an echo, resounds, slowly fades, and then can be heard clearly and majestically.
From a purely visual point of view, this does not correspond to a misty ignorance that gradually clears, but rather to a space that is summed, speckled and drawn by new knowledge. In his pictures, Smith never stops researching. In doing so, he not only wants to make the process of exploration visible, but also to show that an end point has been reached with the completion of the work. In this sense, his artistic expression is not only intuitive, picturesque and open, it is also well thought out and structured. The paintings are both the way and the destination.
Smith is an extraordinary painter who can afford to think, because he thinks with the impulsivity, the immediacy and the sensuality of color itself. Whenever he feels complacenttoive, he takes the freedom to think. However, the intellectual rigour of his work is usually tempered by pure feeling, by instinct, which in turn is tempered by moderation and restraint. In his paintings, the spirit is as much at work as the eye and the hand.
Or, in the words of Elizabeth Bishop and her poem "At the Fishhouses", if Smith's knowledge is historical, then his works are flowing, and flown.
The paintings are about colours and patterns, but also feed on the world itself, from the forms of nature, the knots, and those structures that appear when one examines natural structures from close range or by microscopic means, from waves and smallest parts. And his work feeds on the idea of connection and break-through, from the clashing or crossing of the straight and curved lines, the color that can be easily named, and the shades within shades that are much harder to identify. to which the nervous system reacts with discomfort.
Some of these traces seem almost human, like the vortices and ingenious patterns in early Irish illuminated manuscripts, such as patterns in ancient stone sculptures or signs that have left culture or nature in the landscape. They also embody or dramatize the human struggle for tension on the one hand and rest on the other, between the wounded, the invited on the one hand and devotion, devotion on the other.
What follows from this conflict requires a high degree of attention: when looking at a painting by John Noel Smith, we have to engage in his undisturbed trust in the medium of painting and its power of action. And we must accept that we will be troubled and unsettled when clarity competes with complexity, when surface competes with depth, when the line conflicts with the curve and texture – that is, when the thinking painter confronts the great mystery. behind things and encounters the audacity of the painter's deep inner humility.
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