In these uncertain times it is a gift when some things stay the same. Ever since his first exhibition in Auckland almost exactly 60 years ago, Michael Smither has confronted his viewers with surprises, sometimes shocks, always a search and scrutiny of his singular way of looking at the world.
True to his best form, he has done it again with Here and Now, this exhibition of 10 paintings. “These are the paintings of my old age,” says Smither. “I think now I have truly earned my name: Smither; it means an ordinary working man.”
Smither has always had a totally disciplined commitment to life as an artist. An artist who heads to his studio every morning, who paints through pain, through the vicissitudes of old age (his 82nd birthday is on October 29), through recent deeply-upsetting community conservation disputes, who has kept painting over the last 12 years to produce these works that glow with the energy of spring in his brush.
Here is no sense of fade or jade. Now Smither is offering viewers a visual variation on blue — sea green blue in a long line along the ocean edge, ultramarine blue sliding up to a lighter blue horizon, phthalo blue, azure blue, blues than appear only at dawn, or dusk or noonday. His forms of Coromandel hills and headlands with their long slow dips and dives that sing of Smither’s musical appreciation of the land will be familiar to those who have journeyed on the long creative drive with the artist. His handling of the mix of alkyds and oils he works in is deft, defining and assertive.
Whenever Smither goes walking in his Otama landscape he has a notebook and pencil with him. He draws as he breathes, all the time. The drawings in this exhibition perfectly background the singing colours of the paintings.“These are the best works I’ve done”, says Smither (not uncharacteristically.) “Have I said that before? Well, this has to be the case – otherwise, why bother? I hope my paintings give people a sense of how beautiful it is outside their windows. Enjoy them. Find a feeling of hopefulness. Here’s a way of coping with the world.”
– Trish Gribben 2021