It's no mis­take! Lo­cal artist Ge­orge Smith finds him­self at the Craig Gallery.

Show of lo­cal artist's re­cent paint­ings runs through Nov. 26

The Victoria Standard - - Front Page - AN­DREW BROOKS

If there’s one thing Ge­orge Smith is not short on, it’s sto­ries. Spend any amount of time with him and you’re bound to hear ‘about the time that…’. At­tend a week­end feast pre­pared by him and hosted by his part­ner Cora-lee Eisses, and you will quickly learn that each course is in­spired by great lit­er­a­ture. Even his col­umn in this news­pa­per, which started out as a means to a reg­u­lar recipe for read­ers, now serves nos­tal­gia, ro­mance and irony as a bit­ter­sweet en­trée. Switch art forms and the need for nar­ra­tive re­mains.

“Each paint­ing is a story. Even if that story is not ob­vi­ous to the per­son who is look­ing at the fin­ished piece, to me, there is a story.”

Smith re­cently opened a new show en­ti­tled ‘Fo­cus’ at the Craig Gallery in Dart­mouth that runs un­til Nov. 26. It is a col­lec­tion of his work over the last three years that ex­am­ines “the lan­guage of light and dark and its abil­ity to draw the mind’s fo­cus.” It is also per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant show for the UK na­tive since cross­ing the pond at the turn of the mil­len­nium.

“Do­ing the whole show has been quite over­whelm­ing. When I got the ex­hi­bi­tion in June, I ac­tu­ally thought it was a mis­take. When I ringed the gallery direc­tor, I was sure she was go­ing to say, ‘Oh no, it’s not you, it’s an­other Ge­orge.’”

To Smith, some paint­ings have an ob­vi­ous story like the one of his fa­ther in 1954 dur­ing the Suez cri­sis that is cur­rently hang­ing in Dart­mouth.

“There's a whole story sur­round­ing him about how he got shot, killed an Arab guy, and ended up in jail for mur­der. How the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment got him out of Saudi Ara­bia and got him back to Eng­land, where in his joy­ous, cel­e­bra­tory mood - prob­a­bly drank too much - crashed a mo­tor bike, broke his leg and ends up in hospi­tal. He ends up in hospi­tal with nuns as nurses and falls in love with one of the nuns. They have sex, a few months later she's left the con­vent and mar­ried him. And I'm the prod­uct. But no­body else knows that story who looks at the paint­ing.”

With other paint­ings, the story is com­pletely man­u­fac­tured in Smith’s mind. But it be­comes no less real nor any less im­por­tant.

“If I do not know the per­son, a whole story is in­vented in my head while I paint it. If I'm paint­ing a pic­ture which takes weeks or months, I've in­vented a whole re­la­tion­ship with that per­son.”

Ear­lier this fall, Smith sold a paint­ing of a man and woman he en­ti­tled ‘The Butcher’s Daugh­ter’. Though he knew noth­ing of the real-life fig­ures it was based on, Smith says he wept in front of the piece as it hung in the Vic­to­ria County Cre­ates gallery.

“I had such a strong re­la­tion­ship with those two peo­ple who I'd never met.”

Smith says he wit­nessed a woman re­act­ing in a sim­i­lar way to a dif­fer­ent paint­ing of his at the Craig Gallery.

“There's a story that she’s told her­self about the paint­ing. You don't just cry be­cause you're look­ing at a paint­ing. You're look­ing at it and you have that con­nec­tion - be­cause there's a con­nec­tion, maybe with a story that’s al­ready in your head - a true story. It res­onates in that way. And I think all art does that, not just mine.”

De­spite the sig­nif­i­cance of story, Smith still hon­ours the tech­ni­cal needs of the art form.

“My tech­ni­cal side is sep­a­rate from the story. The story is pro­longed be­cause of the tech­ni­cal side - be­cause I'm try­ing to con­vey the im­age by us­ing the ma­te­ri­als in a par­tic­u­lar way. So, I paint you and use graphite. I use wire wall or a sand­ing disc or some­thing like that. In the same way, I use brushes and my hands and fin­gers to ma­nip­u­late the paint. So, I'm con­tin­u­ously chang­ing it and then I might scrape it all off. And then I might pour wa­ter all over it and wash it off. Or just let the paint run and then let it dry.”

In ad­di­tion to his many artistic en­deav­ours, in the kitchen and the stu­dio, Smith oc­ca­sion­ally swings a ham­mer as a sea­soned car­pen­ter. What sto­ries form in the fram­ing of studs and the fas­ten­ing of sheet rock? If only those walls could talk.

For in­for­ma­tion on gallery hours and di­rec­tions, visit www.alder­ney­land­ing.com/gallery.

A paint­ing of Ge­orge Smith's fa­ther, en­ti­tled "Suez '54", cur­rently hangs at the Craig Gallery un­til Nov. 26 in the artist's show 'Fo­cus'.

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