Past Exhibitions

Peter James Smith


16 Sept - 17 Oct 2022

Exhibition Works

Song of the Earth
Song of the Earth (2015/22)
Falls in Zealandia
Falls in Zealandia (2022)
Bridge at the Gates of Haast
Bridge at the Gates of Haast (2022)
Broken Silence
Broken Silence (2020)
A View from the Bridge on the Dart River
A View from the Bridge on the Dart River (2022)
Last Light Cape Reinga
Last Light Cape Reinga (2022)
Falls (2022)
Mapping Zealandia (A View from Lord Howe Rise)
Mapping Zealandia (A View from Lord Howe Rise) (2022)
Southport Till
Southport Till (2020)
Downstream Crossing
Downstream Crossing (2022)
A Song of Plato's Cave (Rain Shadow)
A Song of Plato's Cave (Rain Shadow) (2022)
Falls from an Armature
Falls from an Armature (2022)
Zealandia (Campbell Island)
Zealandia (Campbell Island) (2022)

Exhibition Text

Zealandia is a term which has been reintroduced to the vocabulary in recent years after over half a century of neglect. In its original incarnation, Zealandia was a personification of New Zealand, a daughter of Britannia, the subject of nationalistic statues and images. But it was an image that never completely took hold. New Zealand's beauty was too austere, its country too untameable, to be descended from the gentle rolling countrysides of Britannia's isles.

In recent years, the term has resurfaced, repurposed, as the name of the sunken continent of which New Zealand is one of the few parts above the waves. If Britannia rules the waves, then her daughter lies mainly beneath them.

Peter James Smith is well aware of this duality and its connotations when considered in connection with New Zealand's European history. The sons of Britannia, in the form of Cook and his fellows, came as mariners and scientists to chart a great southern continent, and found only ocean speckled with islands. But what islands, lands filled with astonishing natural grandeur that would take centuries to fully explore. It is only in the last few decades that the continent itself has finally emerged, again through the discoveries of science.

Art and science are often considered unmixable opposites, but Peter James Smith gives the lie to these theories. His art mixes the grandeur of the land and sea with text and notation relating to disciplines as broadly separate as philosophy and climatology (both referenced in A Song of Plato's Cave). Mythology is invoked, in reference to both Māori and European traditions, as is the early history of European settlement.

Smith is also keenly aware of the history of New Zealand art, and nods and references to predecessors ranging from Van der Velden to McCahon can be recognised in his epic landscapes.

Smith's latest paintings utilise a looser and more painterly style than in the past. This is particularly effective in the works where water in its many forms is referenced, in the glacial forms of Song of the Earth, the roaring river of Bridge at the Gates of Haast, and the cascades of Fall from an Armature. Loose oil crayon strokes overlay the falls in this latter work, adding an extra thrill of dynamism to the image. Colours are darker in these works, tapping into a deeper spiritual dimension through the artist's long observation of and abiding love for the landscape (1), a love that is apparent to any viewer of the works.
Artist's statement, 2022.

Exhibition Views