christine smith

SHADOWS: LOST + FOUND
May 6, 2019

late afternoon shadows while prepping canvases

"As light fades and the shadows deepen, all petty and exacting details vanish, everything trivial disappears, and I see things as they are in great strong masses: the buttons are lost, but the sitter remains; the sitter is lost, but the shadow remains; the shadow is lost, but the picture remains. And that, night cannot efface from the painter's imagination."

- James Abbott McNeill Whistler

 

HUSH
May 1, 2019

April was a dense and thorny month of growth, worry, decision-making, and digital noise. I’ve been a little quiet lately and spending some time alone. For me as an artist, the alone time is extremely valuable. Solitary on early morning walks in the woods, apart from owl, eagle, deer and seal in the river; there is a soft hush in the air. The hush on the landscape allows me space to get clear and grounded on my own inner landscape. I tuck that hush gently into my pocket and carry it back into the studio, where later in the day, I can silently hold it while I explore with questions and thoughts onto the canvas.

 

WAKING UP
March 25, 2019

"When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego,
and when we escape like squirrels turning in the
cages of our personality
and get into the forests again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us
so that we don't know ourselves.

Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut with power,
we shall stamp our feet with new power
and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like
burnt paper. "

- D.H. Lawrence

 

ON THE EASEL
March 18, 2019

Disappearing Act (detail), acrylic and wax pastel on canvas, 36" x 24", 2019

Disappearing Act (detail), acrylic and wax pastel on canvas, 36" x 24", 2019

Disappearing Act (detail), acrylic and wax pastel on canvas, 36" x 24", 2019

I'm on a break from class this week and looking forward to working for long stretches in the studio. This afternoon, the polar bear and I had a nice convo going before I started to fuss and overwork him. Here he is at a moment of stillness as I step back from the easel, clean my brushes and make a cup of tea. I feel very sad when I think about vulnerable animals and lately, the polar bear. I feel sad and angry when I see garbage spilling over the cans at the park and in the forests where I run. I feel overwhelmed about the impact that humans have on the shrinking habitat of our beautiful animal friends and where will they go when we take over all their land, water and sky?

 

SAID THE POET TO THE PAINTER
March 9, 2019

traces of poetry on the bed of the Fraser River during low tide

traces of poetry on the bed of the Fraser River during low tide

traces of poetry on the bed of the Fraser River during low tide

"Simply to live does not justify existence, for life is a mere gesture on the surface of the earth, and death a return to that from which we had never been wholly separated; but oh to leave a trace, no matter how faint, of that brief gesture! For someone, some day, may find it beautiful!"

- Frank O'Hara
 

SCULPTURE: LOST + FOUND
February 19, 2019

uprooted tree found on the Edgewater Bar Trail beside the Fraser River

uprooted tree found on the Edgewater Bar Trail beside the Fraser River

uprooted tree found on the Edgewater Bar Trail beside the Fraser River

uprooted tree found on the Edgewater Bar Trail beside the Fraser River

uprooted tree found on the Edgewater Bar Trail beside the Fraser River

uprooted tree found on the Edgewater Bar Trail beside the Fraser River

uprooted tree found on the Edgewater Bar Trail beside the Fraser River

uprooted tree found on the Edgewater Bar Trail beside the Fraser River

"I call them 'shy sculptures', the first one I made was of a boathouse on a fjord in Norway. It's hardly had any attention and I really wanted to make things that you just come across, very much part of the landscape."

- Rachel Whiteread (Interview: Rachel Whiteread: A Life In Art, The Guardian)

 

WHAT IS IT?
February 14, 2019

Untitled (Nocturne 1), ink on paper, 2019

Untitled (Nocturne 2), ink on paper, 2019

I recently came across this quote by Elaine de Kooning speaking about her husband and abstract expressionist artist, Willem de Kooning. I read the quote, re-read it, wrote it down in a little sketchbook, re-read it again and carried both the sketchbook and her words to think about on a walk. Sometimes artwork can be very obvious, representational and quite literal and sometimes the work can be a suggestion of a thought, impression or a whisper of a sentence. Lately, I've been looking at artwork in books. The artists in the books don't provide the hand-holding and lengthy artist statements that read like answer keys found in the back of text books. Their work reminds me of poems. Would we ask a poet to provide a statement or dissect their poem? No. Perhaps there is mystery and an invitation to be curious and ask the questions by not needing nor providing an explanation. 

"'What is it?' It is difficult for him to explain what his art is as to explain what he himself is, but, since he paints with the question and not with the answer, explanation is not an issue."

- Elaine de Kooning (from Ninth Street Women, 2018)

 

COMPOSITIONS: LOST + FOUND 
January 26, 2019

 

 

"In the forest think of the forest, not of this tree
and that but the singing movement of the whole"

- Emily Carr, 1935

 

NEW WORK
January 18, 2019

Gold Creek 1

 

Gold Creek 2

 

Gold Creek 3

 

Gold Creek 3 - detail

 

Gold Creek 4

 

Gold Creek 4 - detail

These pieces came about from hiking in, out and beside Gold Creek in Golden Ears Provincial Park last summer. Gold Creek is a main artery that cuts between the East Canyon and the West Canyon Trail. I wanted the fluidity and the transparency of the paint to mirror the flow of the creek. Memories of Hemlocks, Alder, exposed Yellow Cedar, backdropped with dark and silent mountains, the gentle sound of running water and sunburned shoulders seeped their way in, too. 

 

RUNNING SCARED
January 10, 2019

Vans at the VAG, gouache on paper, 2019

Never Left the Eighties, gouache on paper, 2019

What Would Virginia Woolf Do, gouache on paper, 2019

I admire the tenacity and bravery of artists that take on a 'daily' painting challenge every year. Not only do the artists publicly declare their commitment, they show their accountability by posting their daily offerings on social media. Every. Day. I don't know if I'm more impressed by the level of commitment or that they post their work for the whole world to see, scroll, scrutinize, and validate with a 'thumbs up' or by pressing a cute red heart. It terrifies me. I used to play along and join the latest challenge. I've participated in the #100 Day Project in 2017 and I've painted along with some fine and friendly artists in the 2018 Inktober, too. I thought it would be 'good' for me to commit to making art every day and I thought it would be 'good' for me to publicly share my work and be a part of an online community, as I have always felt lost on social media. I learned that most folks are encouraging, supportive and it felt nice to have people look at my work. While, I am grateful for each challenge and what I learned from them, it started to feel like I was playing it safe by sticking to the same size, same sketchbook, same medium and similar subject matter that some else had decided for everyone participating. January 2019 rolled in and I made up my own weekly challenge, thinking it would be 'good' for me to be a part of something and share my work. Here's the thing: the work wasn't scaring me, showing it on a saturated and public platform was. Keeping to a tight weekly schedule also didn't leave me any room to breathe in big abstract paintings; which what I was wanting to do. I had tethered myself to dealing with somewhat representational subject matter, thinking up clever hashtags, posting and the idea that this was enough. 

I've realized I want to be scared and to return back to the privacy and safety of my studio. I want to be scared covering those big sheets of paper and canvases I used to spend time with weird ideas and thoughts. I want to be scared about not showing a soul until I know the work is finished or what it wants to say. Where I'm going today, there isn't any room for 'thumbs up' and cute red hearts and this feels good right now.

"You must unlearn the habit of being someone else or nothing at all, of imitating the voices of others and mistaking the faces of others for your own." 

- Hermann Hesse

 

LOOK WHAT HAPPENS
December 11, 2018

Even 
After
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,
"You owe me."

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.

-Hafiz

 

A BOX OF DARKNESS
September 28, 2018

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

(The Uses of Sorrow by Mary Oliver, from Thirst, 2007)

I wasn't too sure how to start again. I've been hiding. Thoughts and notes scribbled and sandwiched in-between pages of my sketchbook were safer than speaking them out loud. The last two years, I've been carrying a box of darkness. A box that held sadness, loss, grief, and loneliness. My box full of darkness became heavy that I became small and hid. I lugged and dragged that box with me until I could move with and through my darkness and pain to eventually see it as a gift. The gift of being able to sit and stay with grief, to accept the loss with tender compassion, to glance back with gratitude and release the past; the gift to choose to be soft, light and curious again.