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Smith family exhibit is a ‘treat for the eyes’

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Pawpaw Bermuda, an exhibit by Edwin Smith and his family currently showing at Gallery One Seventeen, is unusual in that it is a family show. I say unusual, but not unheard of; a few months back the Gardner family also had a joint show at one of the Bermuda Society of Art galleries. In the case of the Smith family however, this is their fifth such exhibition.

It's a themed display based on the pawpaw. In connection with the show, the family has produced a book that includes recipes and something of the history of the pawpaw in Bermuda as well as an overview of its place in the history of Bermuda landscape painting. The book is sponsored by the Department of Cultural Affairs.

Dr Smith, who worked on it with his wife, Shirley Ann, and their two sons, Micrae and Stefan, is professor of fine art at Bermuda College where he teaches both studio art and art history. He also sits on committees at the Bermuda National Gallery.

All this is background to what is most important as regards this show. Dr Smith is a master at the craft of drawing and painting. His monochromatic paintings recall analytical cubism, that period in the development of cubism by Picasso and Braque, from about 1909 to 1911.

While Dr Smith's paintings are not at all cubist, the way he breaks up his compositions and restricts his paintings to black and white, remind one of that earlier cubist period.

I mentioned his incredible drawing skills but further to that he has the knack of drawing accurately as well as quickly, with sweeping gestures that give his compositions a liveliness, yet with considerable precision as well.

Dr Smith's paintings are lodged somewhere between realism and abstraction. Actually, all paintings are to some degree abstract and all paintings are to some degree realistic. It's all a matter of degree. We are incapable of removing ourselves completely from the visual world that surrounds us and even in so-called non-objective painting, the shapes and colours all relate to the visual world in some way.

The pawpaw cookbook is where Mrs Smith comes into this show. The culinary arts are as much an aesthetic experience as music, dance, drama or the visual arts. All of us are, on a daily basis, participants in the ritual of eating — I'm not sure where fast food comes in as an aesthetic, however. I was once asked what is the first requirement in the preparation of food. The professor who asked this question considered that the first requirement is that it should look attractive.

Mrs Smith told me that some of the recipes in the book are her inventions and others are adaptations of already made recipes, where she substituted pawpaw for other ingredients.

It has been noted that many artists are also good cooks and not a few have produced cookbooks. I asked Dr Smith if he was a cook. He said that he does sometimes cook although not often; when he does he enjoys the process.

Their sons are in their own individual ways, highly creative. Micrae is noted for his papermaking, in which he uses pawpaw fibre as the basis for the paper. It's interesting, this rugged, rather organic-looking paper which is framed and behind glass for good reason. It looks touchable.

There are four pieces in which Micrae and his father collaborated in making a collage — part paint and part pawpaw paper.

Stafen is the family photographer and for this show he focused on the trunks of pawpaw trees. It is probably overlooked by many but where the leaf stems fall away from the trunk, the underlying scar is in the shape of a heart. Several of his photos feature this aspect of pawpaw trunks.

This is a not-to-be-missed exhibition. It is also one that should be supported. When art of such skill is available at attractive prices, it is my thinking that it will be a good investment — not only in encouraging local artists, but also monetarily.

Pawpaw Bermuda runs until Tuesday at Gallery One Seventeen, Front Street. Do not delay — it's a treat for the eyes.

Family exhibit: the Smiths from left, Edwin, Micrae, Shirley Ann and Stefan (Photograph supplied)
Hollow Trunks by Stefan Smith (Photograph supplied)
Scars 1 by Micrae Smith (Photograph supplied)
Pawpaw hearts by Stefan Smith (Photograph supplied)
Resilience 2 by Edwin Smith (Photograph supplied)
Resilience 1 by Edwin Smith (Photograph supplied)

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Published September 26, 2019 at 5:07 pm (Updated September 26, 2019 at 5:16 pm)

Smith family exhibit is a ‘treat for the eyes’

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