Peter James Smith’s latest exhibition Truth + Beauty continues to explore notions of the sublime, romanticised landscape while utilising the beauty of mathematics as a visual sign language. “The works in this exhibition dance around the mathematical and the dynamical - a choreography with beauty at its still point” states Smith. (1)
Smith overlays New Zealand’s past and present with a contemporary cinematic presentation that references a romantic era of exploration and painting. In doing so he re-invigorates points in history, while questioning how the future will judge the present. Smith’s paintings incorporate histories of the land, of literature, art, philosophy, science and mathematics. His achievement lies in his ability to unite multiple histories, with the here and now into concise and evocative compositions. His paintings make us pause and take heed, producing an emotional response to our landscape and our histories.
In The Measure of Aoraki (2006) the mountain is measured not only in mathematical terms but also in spiritual and cultural significance. He depicts the awe-inspiring vista overlaid with text, from the 1881 survey of Mt Cook: “We stood and watched the first sunlight flicker above the main divide. Others stopped and watched in silence held by the dark earth under the changing clouds of Aoraki.”
Smith recognises the transience of the land, reminding us to value our national treasures, Huia (2006) is a powerful evocation of how easily these can be lost. The Huia are painted with a deft hand, detailed and life-like sitting on a branch in their natural environment. Smith overlays this with the powerful lines by T.S. Elliott “The houses are all gone under the sea, the dancers are all gone under the hill”; a prophesy to the Huia’s eminent extinction.
1. Peter James Smith, Artist statement, 2006.