Selected Works: 1993-2016
A solo exhibition by John Noel Smith
at Wexford County Council
17th October – 2nd December 2016
You are invited to an opening reception on Saturday 15th October at 2pm.
Opened by Writer & Curator Catherine Marshall and County Wexford Arts Officer Liz Burns.
The Arts Department of Wexford County Council in partnership with Wexford Arts Centre are delighted to host a significant exhibition of work by acclaimed Irish artist John Noel Smith bringing together a selection of paintings made over a period of more than twenty years. An insightful collection of key works from significant stages in the development of the artist’s oeuvre serves as a timely survey and makes palpable the ongoing dialogue existing between earlier series of paintings and the more recent work.
The imposing German Requiem I and II pay tribute to a time spent in Berlin evoking the emotion and poignancy of an era in the divided city and shortly after its lumbering reunification. Smith was of course an important protagonist in Berlin’s art scene during its most vital period.
The String series takes the dynamic exploration of line and rhythm with its pulsating cadences to a new level in Smith’s analyses of what is germane to the painting process. In the distinctive Fold Icon and Fold Cluster paintings, reflective light in the successive folds and layers of pigment of the triptych projects outwards in contrast to the light generated from the internal structure of the painting, making the interactive experience sculptural.
The Pandect series treats painting as a continuum of interrelated structures as distinct from disparate forms. The symbiotic co-existence of previous ideas with present concerns reflecting their fluid coherent internal structure.
This underlying process is also examined in Smith’s Palimpsest series, where again the components of painterly language are emphasised rather than concealed. The word palimpsest comes from the Greek (palin/ again and paso/ I scrape) meaning scraped clean and used again. The image is built up in layers, washed with turpentine and scraped with a palette knife. The lost traces of the previous layers are not fully erased and so are incorporated and used to restructure and constitute the finished work. This process is also examined in an early work Omphalos from the Laceration series, which also includes Rib Cage. Omphalos was used in ancient Greece to denote the sacred round stone in the temple of Apollo, which marked the centre or navel of the Earth. In this painting the diptych form is used to create a de facto centre, challenging the orthodox understanding of the process of fragmentation in a spiritually atrophied world; in other words, it expresses the idea of harmony by incorporating the contradictions into its essential structure – its omphalos.
Smith has created paintings in series for many years and though there are shifts in his concerns as a new body of work evolves, a clear line still runs in coherent connection. This is an artist who clearly revels in the manipulation of his materials, masterfully controlling them to forge an art of beauty and depth. In an ongoing examination of the very language and process of painting, Smith reveals his mark as maker. Each brushstroke is confidently on show, the painting as its own frame of reference; the result, a poetic balancing act of the intuitive and gestural with the cerebral.
Smith has a deeply rooted connection to Co. Wexford, making this exhibition all the more poignant to his own legacy as an Irish based artist. His great grandfather farmed at Smith’s Cross in Ballycanew, while his grandfather was the County Station Master from 1908-1915. His own father moved to Dublin in the 1930’s where John Noel grew up in Malahide. From 1965 he studied in St. Peters College, Wexford graduating in 1970 before attending Dun Laoghaire School of Art, Dublin from 1972-76. The “Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst” scholarship (DAAD) brought him to Germany where he studied at the “Universität der Künste Berlin” UdK (Berlin University of the Arts). He spent 22 years in Berlin pursuing a thriving career as a professional practising artist from 1980-2002. He returned home to Ireland in 2002 where he now lives and works in North Wexford.
John Noel Smith has exhibited internationally since 1980. Recent exhibitions include New Works, Fenderesky Gallery, Belfast, Northern Ireland (2016); German Requiem, Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA), Dublin (2015); Gnosis, Hillsboro Fine Art, Dublin (2015), Mehr ist Mehr, Galerie Stefan Bartsch, Munich, Germany (2014); United Field Paintings, Konsthallen Hishult, Sweden (2012); John Noel Smith and Anthony Caro, Waterhouse & Dodd, London (2012); Palimpsest, Wexford Arts Centre, Wexford (2012); and The Fold, Solstice Arts Centre, Navan (2011).
His work forms part of important public collections including the Arts Council, Dublin; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; Berlinische Galerie Museum of Modern Art, Berlin; Senatskanzlei Kulturelle Angelegenheiten, Berlin; Office of Public Works, Dublin; Wexford County Council, Wexford; and the National Self Portrait Collection, Limerick.
He is represented by Hillsboro Fine Art Dublin, Fenderesky Gallery Belfast and Galerie Stefan Bartsch, Munich, Germany and is a member of Aosdana.
Selected Works: 1993-2016 will run in Wexford County Council from Saturday 15th October to Friday 2nd December 2016, and opening hours are 9.30am-5.00pm from Monday to Friday. For further information on the artist or exhibition please contact Catherine Bowe, Visual Arts Manager, Wexford Arts Centre, Cornmarket, Wexford on 053 9123764 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Philip Knight, Assistant Staff Officer, The Arts Department, Wexford County Council, Carricklawn, Wexford on 053 9196369 or email email@example.com.