19 September to 7 November 2020

FLESH AND BONE is a survey exhibition of works by internationally renowned Brisbane painter Ian Smith, curated by Noosa Regional Gallery Director Michael Brennan. 

Artist’s Statement


‘At its most elemental, painting is about suspending blobs, smears and blocks of paint on a fabric membrane, solid sheet or wall. When I was about 10 years old, I watched an Italian plasterer [one of those immigrants who had brought Mediterranean building styles to Australia] work on the exterior walls of a house being built next door. He suspended a slushy mix on stud-frame walls covered with silver tar paper and chicken wire mesh. As the chicken wire slowly disappeared under concrete, amorphous shape patterns came and went. Later he threw and splattered a fanciful pattern of darker grey plaster over the surface. Whether 1950s stucco houses are now cool or kitsch, I realised I had watched the making of something like a monumental painting. He had hung the surface ‘flesh’ on the structural ‘bone’ of the work. Little wonder that by age 25 I’d chosen a house painter confronting a wall as a definitive image; and continue to use it in my work.

I am primarily a figurative painter, even if in Australia conceding to landscape is inevitable. While painting mountains, I preferred ‘flesh and bone’ density to the airy sketchiness employed by many Australian landscape painters. ‘Deconstructing’ the mountains to expose imaginary inner armatures, paradoxically delivered me more solid mountainscapes than if I painted them as ‘views’. But not all structures in painting are grids, armatures, stud-frames, girders and scaffolding. In my ‘Portrait of Ray Hughes’, the under-structure is photography which, although virtual, is presumed in contemporary life  to be the next best ‘reality’ after flesh, bone, earth, wind, fire and water themselves. It offers a ‘social structure’ or ‘reality’ on which my painting of Ray floats. Similarly, the portrait of myself as a baby is posed in the socio-historic ‘structure’ of a family photo, boxed in a gilt frame [even if only a plaster-moulded fake one]. Meanwhile, a free-curling structure of my own invention [using a set of French Curve drawing templates] provides an appropriate under-structure for the over-sized, rotund baby portrait of my daughter with my mother. Apart from drawing babies, I have employed French Curves extensively to structure paintings and drawings of flowers [particularly Hibiscuis] and my curvilinear Italian Greyhound dog.’

– IAN SMITH, Brisbane, August, 2020.



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Main image: Ian Smith, Constructing Houses – Deconstructing Mountains #2 2017, 86 x 122 cm. Courtesy of the artist.