Melbourne based Peter James Smith is Head of Art at the prestigious RMIT Art School, a world acknowledged authority on statistical mathematics, and one of a select group of New Zealand artists exhibiting in NZ and Australia regularly. In 2009, a major mid-career survey show was held at the Gippsland Art Gallery, Victoria.
As revealed in the title, Nine Key Works 2002-08, this exhibition serves to highlight very significant works, and that Peter James Smith has charted a direction no other New Zealand artist has. His combination of pictorial representation and abstract space, along with other devices (such as handwritten text, cinematic borders) and the manner in which he unifies (a history of) intellectual and physical endeavour with visual experience, the specifics of place and the essences of moments (or events) come to forge the unmistakeable duality at the heart of his unique, memorable work.
Smith overlays a written narrative upon the landscape, making no attempt to deliver something finite – he is constructing a (partial) window to that landscape, event and knowledge. He deliberately leaves space for the viewer to enquire and participate and in this way expects that the viewer can and will, or could and should, enter the dialogues and experience the work in multiple and various ways. For some, it will be the romantic beauty of the sublime landscape that entices; for others, the intellectual endeavour and human spirit of enquiry that spurs and animates.
He uses history, literature, scientific enquiry, the significant journeys of navigators (whether travelling the oceans or entering the world of the cosmos) and collapses time into moments of awe. Collectively his work states that the enquiries of art, mathematics, science, philosophy and the exploits of great human endeavour are in essence united, not at all separate and so share the same objectives.