As a painter, Smith’s naturalistic approach makes us re-evaluate the commonplace in the world around us. In previous series of paintings, the artist has painted road workers and earth moving equipment, motorway bridges and farm sheds, muddy fields and cans of Bird’s custard. Now with WEAPONS, he has turned his forensic attention to objects that are so ubiquitous in soeciety at large, and particularly in the world of entertainment, that we almost forget what they are really for.
The idea of walking into a supermarket and buying a weapon and a round of bullets is shocking to us in Ireland. Yet in America it is commonplace. Although weapons feature so regularly in films, books, television and games, very few of us have ever looked closely at a real weapon. It was this fascination that led Smith to embark on a project to find out about these weapons. To discover where they were, what they looked like and how they were used.
In Kilkenny barracks Smith was able to paint the actual weapons from life, giving him time to show every scratch and dent but also learning about them from the soldiers who work with them.
Smith always tackles his subject matter with an intensity which is evident in the paintings. these weapons are lethal but Smith manages to portray them in an almost calm and serene manner. The potential threat of violence and destruction is simmering beneath the thick gloss of the oil paint. Their scale is almost alarming as a bullet is enlarged to the scale of a person, somehow commenting on it's power and menace, and yet, it resembles a lipstick case making it almost abstract.
Pistols are painted at a scale that reveals every detail of how they are made and yet they are viewed by the artist straight on, on a white background as if they posed no threat. The massive machine gun paintings make us admire their precision engineering without thinking immediately of their purpose. Even the UN armored personnel carrier looks quite calm in it's static position. Smith has created a wonderful juxtaposition for us, these tools for killing are presented in a calm and objective way - they even look beautiful. It leads us to look at them in an abstract way first before considering what they are really for.
©BLAISE SMITH 2020. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED