ELEVATION 2014 at The Molesworth Gallery, Dublin


My father was an architect and some of my earliest memories of drawing were on the left over plans and blueprints that he brought home from the office. I remember being intrigued by some elevation drawings of the docks in Dublin, with the boats sitting on the waterline. In particular, I liked the way all the doors and windows had been carefully detailed in the buildings. I cheerfully filled them in with soldiers engaged in extended gun battles providing the sound effects as I went along.

It is no surprise then that from my earliest paintings I have always had a strong preference for seeing the world side-on, in elevation. In later post-rationalisation I have been able to understand the reasons that this kind of picture works: the strong horizontals and verticals have a calming effect, they avoid lines that arrive at angles at the edges of the painting which tend to create drama. I believe a painting is a place where the eye can rest and this is one of their functions (and unique selling points) in today’s world.

This approach allows a figurative image to become more abstract and it is the quality I sought in the subjects for this group of paintings. At the same time, I wanted to show things that are routinely unobserved, perhaps because they are perceived as ugly. It is worth remembering that Constable was not a very successful painter in his lifetime because his subjects were seen as industrial and prosaic (and ugly). In the countryside, where most of these are located, there is often a perfectly beautiful landscape right behind me. Passers-by have sometimes stopped and asked in dismay why I am not painting the view. ‘But it is a view’, I reply.

On top of the rationale, I really enjoy painting a wall, particularly a dirty scuffed, mouldy concrete wall. I can do it well and I seem to get infinite satisfaction from it. And I enjoy putting in all the odd details, like the wellington boots in the Red Swing Door or the vertically hung fluorescent light in the Prefab.

Finally, it seems appropriate to dedicate this show to my father Allen, who was probably just trying to keep me quiet while he got on with his work. It’s funny how things turn out. I don’t do the sound effects much anymore though.

Blaise Smith ARHA, June 2014

All text and images © Blaise Smith 2020