RICHARD SMITHShaped Canvases 1966-197
26 January - 31 March 2023
‘The making of paintings has always been a subject in my work and with the shaping of the canvas this subject became more obvious and in some ways primary… The shape is an aspect of colour, the distortion of the canvas membrane alters the way the colour can be seen – also, the contour makes a varied absorbency, and therefore the canvas holds the colour in a specific way…’
Richard Smith 1968
In 1963 Kasmin Gallery held the first in a series of remarkable exhibitions showcasing monumental shaped canvases by the young British artist, Richard Smith (1931-2016). A recent graduate of the Royal College of Art, Smith had only just returned to London after two years working in New York on the esteemed Harkness Fellowship. He had by this stage already gained significant critical acclaim for his largescale abstract paintings exhibited at the cutting-edge Green Gallery in New York. But it was these dramatic shaped canvases, made upon his return home and shown here in the first exhibition dedicated to this work in over 50 years, which truly confirmed his originality as an artist. It marked the start of a revelatory period lasting a decade in which he explored the limits of painting through the shaped canvas.
This exhibition brings together examples of Smith’s most arresting work from the period 1966 to 1972. The works on view not only reveal his astounding technical skill as a fabricator, but also his methodical approach to creating paintings as three-dimensional, physical objects. Light, colour and surface remained principle concerns in Smith’s shaped canvases, as well as retaining the essential frontal facing and wall-based character of each work. By this date his subject matter had shifted from external references, lifted from billboards and commercial adverts, to that of the formal qualities of painting itself.
These paintings and works on paper reveal the surprising and inventive thought processes of a truly brilliant mind. Smith was always questioning and exploring, pushing his media to the limits of what was possible to produce dramatic, innovative and beautifully executed pictures.