Michael Smith: Memory Current

December 1 - 22, 2016

Opening Reception: Thursday, December 1, 6 - 8 PM

Nicholas Metivier Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of paintings by Michael Smith. The exhibition will open on December 1st and run until December 22nd with an opening reception on Thursday, December 1st. This is Smith’s fifth solo exhibition at the gallery.

A landscape for Michael Smith is a world and a whirled. He recognizes that all his references refer to landscape and he is obsessed with those possibilities. There is no single way for his landscapes to be viewed or rendered and, as a result, the process of their realization is neither stable nor predictable. In Smith’s hands, a landscape is a repository for memory (the past) and a site for making (the present). At their core, they hold emotion, psychology and aesthetics in an inexplicable balance.

– Robert Enright


Michael Smith was born in Derby, England in 1951. He immigrated to Montreal, Canada in his late twenties where he has resided ever since. Over the last three decades, Smith has become renowned for his ability to strike a poetic balance between representation and abstraction. Identifying a specific place has always been less important to Smith than conveying the energy and emotion associated with it. His subjects of forests and seascapes seem to dissolve into or explode out of, the physicality of his brushwork and impasto surfaces. His personal experiences of place and his reference to works by artists including J.M.W. Turner’s Burning of the Houses of Parliament and Jean-Paul Riopelle’s energetic abstractions, continually shape Smith’s understanding of landscape painting as both a site for memory and engaging imagination.

In Smith’s latest body of work, he applies his signature technique to explore the notion of landscape layered with history. The places represented in Smith’s paintings are in a state of constant flux, transitioning between natural, industrialized and at times, war-torn landscapes. Memory Current, the title of the exhibition, refers to the simultaneous activation of events that have taken place in the landscape, over a period of time. For Smith, the pastoral or untouched landscape is no longer relevant – large vessels float on the sea’s horizon while buildings appear destabilized by human destruction or elemental forces. It is these loose points of reference that are at once historical and contemporary, representational and abstract, that create a compelling mix of excitement and anxiety in Smith’s paintings.

Smith completed his MFA at Concordia University in Montreal. His work is represented across the country and is in numerous collections including the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal and the Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery.


For the essay by Robert Enright, click here.