AboutCarl Freedman presents Great Expectations, David Brian Smith's second solo show at the gallery. This new body of work sees a return to one of Smith's foremost concerns - landscape painting. Often drawing on autobiographical incidents and memories, the paintings utilise personal as well as found photographs as source imagery, rooting them in the real, lived world. These paintings, however, are far from realism. With their intense palettes, dramatic skies, folkloric subjects, and passages of pure dream-like invention they radiate an almost spiritual quality.
Great Expectations II and Great Expectations I Told Everyone are part of an ongoing series of paintings which take the lone shepherd and his flock as their subject. Smith grew up on a Shropshire sheep farm, and his father was shepherd. The figure in Great Expectations is painted in a drab, earthy, matter-of-fact palette that distances him from the ethereal, flouro sheep which surround him. By contrast, the shepherd in Great Expectations I Told Everyone floats amidst a background of gold leaf and rich colour relationships making it somewhat reminiscent of Viennese Symbolist paintings.
In all the works Smith has traced over the weave of the herringbone linen used as painting support. For Smith, the herringbone weave is redolent of traditional woollen cloths worn in rural Britain. The closely-packed tracings can lend the painting the look of a woven tapestry, while suggesting the slow, patient activities of cultivation and craft that are typical of rural life. In works such as Ollie (2009), the effect of this tracing process is more pronounced, acting as a screen or filter, and with the pattern more akin to television interference.
Forteen Drunken Nights takes its title from the ribald song âSeven Drunken Nights' by Irish folk band The Dubliners. The source image is a postcard of Worfield where Smith grew up. The tropically-coloured palm trees interspersed in the landscape are like drunken versions of the grand trees that line the receding pathway. Headland also uses the same image of Worfield as its starting point. This painting looks to be more bucolic with the addition of the water fowls and other birds and the transformation of the pathway into an imagined stream. Yet the densely worked ground and strangely patterned trees brings an air of portent and psychological intensity.