John Bunker reviews Richard Smith: Work of Five Decades at Flowers Gallery, Cork Street, London, on view through July 15, 2017.
Bunker writes: “To point to and paraphrase Matisse … he said the first line that an artist makes as she/he begins a drawing is in fact the 5th as there are already the four lines defined by the four sides of the paper on which she/he works. This simple truth is pretty much echoed throughout the rise and fall of abstract colour painting. But what happens when a painting that is full of echoes ‘of the edge’ suddenly loses one of those edges, then two, then all of them? All notions of ‘building up’ a painting from the bottom or in from the sides dissolve. So if we can’t hopscotch our way across a conventional canvas and find no reassuring rebounds from its edges, then where next? The very restrictions of the rectangle are a structural comfort, liberation can be found in this age old confinement. Much of Smith’s work seems to scratch at this particular itch concerning the structure of a painting and then the painting of a structure.”