“My work gathers together phases of scientific endeavour by placing data, text, references and graffiti across an illusionistic visual field. The gathering of data, codes, signifiers and histories into a current woven text is a particularly post-modern stance. It provides the artist with a curator’s brief. It sits well with the scientist who creates new work by formally referencing the pioneering work of others in the field. In this sense scientists don’t ‘appropriate’, they build on the past.” (1)
Peter James Smith’s landscapes possess the elements of simultaneous beauty and terror that the Romantics called the sublime, and the experience of which could bring about instances of spiritual transcendence. Smith tempers this with the rational formulae, charts and diagrammes that range across the surface of his paintings, providing parameters for the viewers’ experience.
“Smith paints with an enviable fluency in two abstract languages – mathematics and art – each carefully presented to perform a specific role in his Socratic argument. Both languages strive for elegance, but we are used to seeing them apart, so he uses vernacular painting to seduce. Then through his arcane scientific medium he delivers a sudden virtuosity of spirit. Together, they create a crisp tension of ideas, at once charming and vigorous, with painterly abstractions of land or skyscapes beneath the overlay of words or data describing the scene, often scrawled in blackboard freehand… Huge, bilingual abstractions loaded with the emotional charge of each language, art and science: double-barrelled depictions that simultaneously bring us closer to the moment of the event itself, incidentally consider the languages we use and take us to the edge.” (2)
Peter James Smith is widely published as a mathematician and holds the degrees BSc (Honours), MSc and PhD with a Master of Fine Art in Painting. In 2011 he retired as Professor of Mathematics and Art, and Head of the School of Creative Media (photography, creative writing, screenwriting, film and television production, video production, multimedia, music production, digital art, computer gaming) at RMIT University in Melbourne to paint and write full time. His paintings are held in many public, private and corporate collections in New Zealand, Australia and internationally. In 2009/10 he was a New Zealand Art Fellow in Antarctica.
1. Peter James Smith, Artist Statement, 2000.
2. Keith Stewart, "Life Science,"New Zealand Listener, 2 August 1997.