Brian Smyth


Brian Smyth studied and worked in his native Cork before making his Dublin debut with In Time, shown in the Oisín in July 2000. Das Café, his second solo-exhibition with the gallery, was held in November 2003. Brian currently exhibits throughout Ireland and in London.  Although often classified as a romanticist for his style and themes, Brian's most recent work soughts to convey his experiences during his visits to many of Europe's most distinguished café's and meeting places. By retelling and reinterpreting his encounters during his travels, Smyth has venerated the 'café' as an institution of lasting tradition, full of etiquette & enduring customs. Within this theme, he has insisted on according the ordinary world with a dignity once reserved for the urbane in his scrupulous awareness of ambience and in the grandiose stillness he has imposed on his figures. In his group scenes, although the relationship between the figures is apparent, their individuality and distance from each other is curiously striking. There is an almost 'polite' interaction in their interplay, emphasised by their postures and attire. In his intimate portraits of men and women, his ability to transcend the personal relationship between artist & model and involve us in this delicate and most intimate relationship with such sensitivity and grace is utterly bewildering. Another striking element is that his pictures are without dominant and secondary areas of interest. His backgrounds tend to be blatantly ornamental and instead offer a surface of equal interest as well as of even visual texture. This pictorial language he has created evolved out of a search for a style that is at once simple and subtle, while his colour sense tends to be peculiarly beautiful and haunting. In bringing these disciplines together, Brian has shaped a remarkably unique style of constructing compositions and in describing the frailty of the human psyche. The result is a series of succinct, yet complex arrangements - rich in association and spatial ambiguities. Flat colours and rhythmical organisations with often sharp, deft compositions have produced an idiom of expressive distortions within a powerfully controlled structure and impeccable draftmanship. The forms that the artist uses and the way in which they are assembled are deployed to convey both meaning and emotion. Thus, every aspect of his work proclaims classical systems of proportion used in plotting the main elements and divisions of his paintings. This vision runs through each oeuvre, from the visual dramas found in his portraits of pensive women to the haunting presence of his timeless group scenes. Through their uncommonness and persuasiveness, these works are both beautiful and inexplicably moving. He demonstrates the fact that the art and practices of the past are still relevant today. The overall effect is at once archaic and modern. In reflecting his attentiveness to beauty and allure, he approaches his art like an image-struck poet, whilst transcending the conventions of archetypical portraiture.