Acrylic on Canvas
The result of a lifetime of painting, Smibert's recent works are innovative and exploratory, applying experience of watercolour to expressive acrylic on canvas. The results are dynamic and uninhibited, with the most recent works strongly reminiscent of not only Chinese landscape and calligraphy, but also the black action-paintings of Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline.
Smibert constantly evolves the way that he works, developing new methods through research and study. This is most readily apparent in his abstract works on canvas. Where his 'historic method' watercolours rely on classic technique worked in harmony with the medium, these larger contemporary acrylics require complete abandon to medium, action and process.
THE TAO SUBLIME
Protolandscapes by Tony Smibert
It is the coldest day yet of the Tasmanian Autumn and I find myself driving through Deloraine at 8 in the morning on my way to meet Tony Smibert and his wife Carmel Burns for breakfast. Snow has fallen along the Western Tiers during the night and little transparent puffs of mist and cloud are chasing their shadows along the ridges as I turn off from the Mole Creek Road, into the ordered tranquillity of the Smibert house and garden. Tony is on the phone in his studio as I arrive but leaps out of the door to greet me, and we walk straight through his office with its cases of Japanese kimonos, gold framed paintings, and half opened boxes of 200 year old watercolour pans, and into his studio.
It is a year since I have visited, and he is eager to show me what he has been doing. He has told me something of what to expect. He has been thinking of Malevich's black square and exploring this highly formal notion in a much bolder way than he has worked before, influenced also by Jackson Pollock and American Abstraction, themes he started working on at a large scale about four years ago. Using jet black acrylic paint on large square white canvases he has been producing a great number of what I can only call 'Protolandscapes'.
Sometimes these are just a line or a series of lines wandering across the centre of a white panel, turning into a brushstroke and vanishing again; sometimes layer after layer of washing out and repainting to produce something surprisingly close to his watercolour landscapes. Peaks, mists, troughs in the ground where water settles. What brush is he using? A yard broom. Yes; of course. Why not? Some of the paintings resemble etchings or dry points and, as I look at them I find it hard to think of them as being by the same hand that produces luminous watercolours only a handspan wide and employing the full gamut of romantic imagery; turbulent skies, distant waterfalls, mountains and wheeling birds.