AIDAN DUNNE, THE IRISH TIMES Wednesday, February 25, 2009

BLAISE SMITH is a realist painter who has shown a particular empathy for rural Ireland – rural Ireland as it is, rather than any of various idealisations of it. He has in the past provided fine pictorial accounts not only of the countryside but also of farm buildings – domestic and utilitarian, of farm machinery and, in one series, of road-building machinery. It’s still a bit of a leap to his current show, Weapons, at the Molesworth Gallery (it’s already been seen at other venues throughout the country). The weapons are those held and employed by the Irish Defence Forces.

Each is depicted individually, straightforwardly: a Steyr assault rifle, a Browning automatic pistol, a bayonet, an artillery shell. In this, Smith is venturing into problematic territory. There is a thriving subculture that fetishises weaponry and militaria, and is bloodthirsty yet oddly divorced from the wretched realities of war. Clearly Smith runs the risk of pandering to such a mentality in isolating and examining machine guns and pistols.

In fact his work brings the subject down to earth. Depicted matter-of-factly in mundane settings, the weapons appear functional and ominous, but not glorified or fetishised. Like it or not, they are part of the fabric of the State, a necessary evil. Smith also depicts an armoured personnel carrier in UN livery, a salutary reminder of the prominent role Irish troops play in peace-keeping operations internationally.

He then shows us the people behind the weapons, with a portrait of an individual soldier and of a platoon section, kitted out in camouflage and fully armed. It’s a fascinating show and should stand as an illuminating and valuable record of a well-nigh invisible aspect of contemporary Ireland.



Martin Gale's painting can be linked to that of a number of younger artists, notably Blaise Smith, who also makes factual views of a recognisable rural Ireland, not so much de-romanticised as never invested with romanticism. Smith is one of the best of a number of painters, including Maeve McCarthy and David Browne, who adhere to an intense mode of realist painting. 

Thu 01 Jan 2000 IRISH TIMES

Blaise Smith - Sirius Arts centre, Cobh

To celebrate its centenary, Cork County Council commissioned Blaise Smith to produce a body of work that would mark the operations of its roadworks division. The result is a collection of 26 wonderfully executed paintings which have looked deeply into an essentially bland subject, and found much to be admired.

In terms of painting style, Smith could be described as a photo-realist. Initially then, it was tempting to see this definition in its most literal sense, in that the paintings were actually copied from photographs. Closer inspection of the painted surface quickly dismantled this view, as the fluent application supported the plein-air approach actually used by the artist.

All text and images © Blaise Smith 2020