Tag Archives: Contemporary Art

“If It’s OK With Rachel It’s OK With Me”

"If It's OK With Rachel It's OK With Me" abstract drawing by David Smith

“If It’s OK With Rachel It’s OK With Me”
Inktense pencils and Ink on St Cuthbert’s paper 559mm × 762mm

This is a piece that I started maybe a year ago! I finally made time to finish it off. I suppose it fits in my colour field drawings but it has a closer connection to my Tidelines work


"Complicit l"  - abstract monoprint by David Smith

“Complicit l”
Plant extract stains on Snowdon Cartridge 59cm x 84cm

I have been working on this series since the turn of the year. They are, perhaps, the most political works I have ever made. I have always tried to lead an ethically decent life: I’ve campaigned on ecological issues, been on marches, try to buy locally, gardened organically and yet I rarely openly touch on these issues in my work. In my collages and Tidelines work I have certainly hinted at my anger and despair at the way we dump things in the oceans and my titles for pictures give the game away, but this is the first time I have started to explore my conflicted feelings about our consumerism and it’s intertwining with a capitalist system which is clearly breaking society and our environment. At last, everyone seems to be talking about the scourge of plastics, a dream gone wrong, and what we can do to cut down on our use of it before it totally chokes life here on the planet. This has encouraged me to deeply look again at what I can do to use less of the things that damage our world and I find that it is almost impossible to be free of complicity.

So I am starting from the standpoint of a favourite quote from Beth Orton and am trying to  “…learn the trick to turn|What’s not so pretty|Into something more beautiful”. I will be writing more about the series and the story behind these monoprints, but it needs a clearer mind before I do.

"Complicit l"  - abstract monoprint of plant extract stains

“Complicit l” (detail)
Plant extract stains on Snowdon Cartridge 59cm x 84cm

X Marks The Spot Where We Buried The Hatchet

"X Marks The Spot Where We Buried The Hatchet" abstract drawing by David Smith

“X Marks The Spot Where We Buried The Hatchet “
Erased graphite, Magic Tape and stickers on Snowdon cartridge paper 59cm x 84cm

After a period when I could not work on large drawings because of a bad back, I am now back on form and have been working on a strand of the erasure work I began during my 50 Collages Before Christmas project.

Detail from "X Marks The Spot Where We Buried The Hatchet" abstract drawing by David Smith

“X Marks The Spot Where We Buried The Hatchet” – detail
Erased graphite, Magic Tape and stickers on Snowdon cartridge paper 59cm x 84cm

50 Collages Before Christmas – an update

Collage by David Smith

“Making Up For Lost Time”
Collage: paper and photographic elements on card

I have been merrily working away at this project in a measured kind of way. It has been interesting to work with collage in a much bigger way than I have ever done before with some at A1 and one almost A0, though most are around the 50cm x 50cm mark. I have found that some have taken much more time than I ever could have imagined – just physically gluing and trimming takes proportionately longer to ensure everything is just right.

The reason I chose to do the project was to give me a focus. Having been out of the studio for a while I was stacked up with ideas and didn’t want to be flip-flopping about. Well that didn’t work: the project is spawning more ideas than ever and it’s difficult to focus on any of it.

However, I am happy with the direction things are going and I have quite a few pieces on the go and working well (plus a few that don’t want to go the way I hoped!) I have been blogging about the process on a-n so you can read more about it there. Below are some of the collages to date. I’ll create a page with all of them when the project is complete.

Detail of abstract minimalist collage & drawing by David Smith

Abstract Drawings For Dummies I: The Tiny Section of My Soul

Abstract minimalist collage & drawing by David Smith

“Abstract Drawings for Dummies I The Tiny Section of My Soul”
Collage, ink, erased graphite, print and acrylic on Snowdon cartridge 59cm x 84cm

This piece, Abstract Drawings For Dummies I: The Tiny Section of My Soul marks the start of two series of work: Abstract Drawings For Dummies and 50 Collages Before Christmas. I had been adding small sections of collage into my erasure and redaction drawings and decided to include text – something I did quite a bit in drawings 45 years ago (including erasing the words and writing what I had done!) and occasionally more recently during my #Collage 365 and #Letter365 projects. I have always had a leaning towards the surreal and absurd with a bit of tongue-in-cheek conceptual thrown in. Influences from cartoons and illustrations, exploded diagrams and information boards, maps and instruction books and much, much more form a lattice of lunacy in my brain. Lay on to this the soft spot I have for Frank Zappa, Bonzo Dog, David Byrne, Laurie Anderson and other slightly odd (and some other decidedly, very odd) music it is not surprising this kind of thing will surface in my work from time to time. The series title Abstract Drawings For Dummies obviously refers to the hugely successful series of “how to” books. The books are, in my experience, well-written and of a high standard and the use of “for dummies” is in no way demeaning or patronising. By using “Dummies” the publishers are signalling to ordinary people they don’t need to feel threatened by experts and that everyone is quite capable of attaining a working knowledge of the subject of the book. Most abstract artists are continually asked to explain what their work is about and during my #Letter365 project where the artwork was sealed unseen into an envelope and sold “blind” I was particularly strongly questioned. At that time I devised a series of works that might help people find a way into art they were not readily comfortable with: works which have instructions, directions and explanations as part of the composition. This new series is planned towards the realisation of that idea. It also features some of the convoluted workings of my brain which had a small opportunity for expression, sometimes quite wittily, on the envelopes of #Letter365.

As I was clearly fired up to do all manner of work I chose the moment of completing this piece to commit to 50 Collages Before Christmas too.

You Didn’t Try To Call Me

"You Didn't Try To Call Me" - Abstract collage by David Smith

“You Didn’t Try To Call Me”
Photographs, cardboard and acrylic on canvas 50cm x 50cm

The sixth offering in 50 Collages Before Christmas features more of my photographs of grids: some more from Bruce Nauman’s installation at the Hamberger Bahnhof, Berlin and some from boarded-up shopfronts in Bristol. Sometimes it is difficult to stick down collage elements in the precise positions so everything aligns exactly as I want but everything got measured, cut and positioned perfectly almost effortlessly. The photo has a little shine on the left which makes it difficult to see the small dotted marks on the photo which mimic the perforations in the cardboard – my favourite bit, except perhaps for the section centre left which delights my eye with its ever-so-slightly trompe l’oeil misleading.

50 collages before Christmas

Abstract collage by David Smith

“From Under Your Nose”
Paper, acrylic and discarded photograph on gessoed canvas 50cm x 50cm

I’ve gone and done it again! A few years back I did a collage a day for a year – #Collage365. Then I did another every-day-for-a-year project – #Letter365. Only this time I have been a bit less demanding of myself. I think there are 63 days left till Christmas and I started the project 4 or 5 days ago. I know I am going to be away and busy for some of the time so I didn’t want to give myself any pressure. I also wanted to be able to do larger, more considered work rather than the very focussed work that the previous projects demanded. The idea came from my frustration of not being able to get the studio time I have been wanting. Necessary work on my studio roof and other calls on my time have meant I have not been able to engage in the concentrated work I need to be doing. I have sort of promised myself a “residency-at-home” for six months, following the idea of a “staycation”, where I can have an immersive experience in my studio and home landscape (mostly) and this project is how I have decided to kick it off.

Collage has started to creep into my work again – in the “Rings” series and the “Abstract Drawings for Dummies”, the first two of which are also the first two of #Collage50. When I was starting to put my studio back together after the work, I got out one of my large boxes of collage materials and just started working on things. I’ll have to find a way to get my studio organised round the things I am doing! Currently the floor and some work surfaces are covered with newly painted and marked paper I am preparing for use in collages!

The piece above, From Under Your Nose is Number 4 in the series. The photographs are discarded prints by Bridport photographer Brendon Buesnel that he gifted me as collage materials a couple of years ago. The piece below is Number 3, In The Room With No Soul. It features a photograph I took inside Bruce Bruce Nauman’s Room with My Soul Left Out, Room That Does Not Care which I saw at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. A small piece of one of these photos has already appeared in #Collage50 and I can see it could be a theme that develops. Well, it’s a grid isn’t it!

Abstact collage by David Smith

“In The Room With No Soul”
Card and photograph on gessoed canvas 50cm x 50cm

I will set up a separate page for the project in due course and try to get half-decent pictures of them all to make into a gallery slide show.