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Indepth Arts News:

"Peter Smith: Half Life"
2003-12-13 until 2004-01-25
Cambridge Galleries, Preston
Cambridge, ON, CA Canada

Peter Smith is a prolific artist whose aggressively expressive paintings, drawings, prints and mixed media sculpture are vibrant and tightly wound images of the mind at work - the mind processing, sifting, repeating and mirroring the world. Over the years, Smith has been variously influenced by artists as diverse as Rembrandt van Rijn, Oskar Kokoschka and Philip Guston, as well as by animation, comic books, and outsider art. He states that his work, "consists of things I have heard, read, seen (and) experienced," things he says, "that have turned my mind over."

"Though I start a piece from notes in my sketch books, each work eventually takes it's own direction and I follow."

Peter Smith was born in Toronto in 1959. He first received art lessons in lieu of rent from an artist who lived above his father's store. Smith was introduced to contemporary art through his studies at the Ontario College of Art and Design and while working as a preparator at the Ydessa Hendeles Foundation in Toronto. Gradually, over a period of 10 years, Smith arrived at a way of working. Characteristically, he packs his canvases with information, trying to convey the simple act of simultaneously reading the paper and watching the television as an experience of accelerated time, super abundant volumes of information and events colliding in the past, present and future.

Recurrent themes in Smith's work such as spacemen, billboards, and roads are icons of the superhighway of information on which we live. Boxes, for the artist, represent consumerism - "the containers we build to hold all of our stuff." Inventions of civilization Smith depicts as gradually eliminating any evidence of nature. ("Roads and boxes and houses, he says "are things that break up the natural world.") This theme of the separation from nature can be seen in his interest in the Old Testament stories of Cain and Abel, or in his print Up, Up, Up in which a farmer is depicted as feeding giant chemical capsules to his cows. Houses too are a recurrent theme in Smith's work - crowded together, piled high and on wheels - the house for the artist is at once representative of a safe place and as the source of dysfunction - simultaneously a symbol of change and stability. As an artist, Smith says, "We move a lot. Most artists I know have lived in at least ten places."

This past year Peter Smith's work was featured at the Rendez-Vous with Madness Film Festival at the Workman Theatre in Toronto. He also curated and exhibited in the exhibition Main Street, at the John B. Aird Gallery. During 2002, his work hung in the Lieutenant Governor's suite at Queen's Park. Peter Smith is represented by the Robert Birch Gallery, Toronto.

Peter Smith,
Elephant, 2001,
mixed media,
9 x 12 inches.

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