Exhibition Preview: George H Smyth

The surrealist painter and album cover artist talks us through some of the selected works on display in his native County Down from September 3

From September 3 until October 3 Down Arts Centre hosts the first major exhibition by Ardglass artist George H Smith in 14 years. The acclaimed painter hopes the retrospective will give residents of the surrounding areas the opportunity to experience his work for themselves, up close, rather than just hearing of them.

Smyth was first encouraged to draw and paint by his father Ben, a talented watercolour artist in his own right. He discovered the Surrealist style as a teenager and before entering art college he had designed and produced early cover sleeves for Ballyclare band Therapy? who quickly achieved worldwide fame themselves.

Since graduating Ulster University in 1994 Smyth has gone on to travel extensively and produce almost 450 individual works, many which have been featured in exhibitions and private collections the world over.

All the Time in the World

'All the Time in the World', 2014

'My work is definitely inspired by the big themes', says Smyth, 'the why and where of our place in the universe and our relationship with time.' Indeed clocks have become a recurring theme in his work over the last 10 years. 

'My painting 'Time Stays, We Go' from 2013 was first inspired by coming across that saying,' he continues. 'It just sounded too good not to tackle as a subject. Then when I found out that in Denmark when someone dies they say "He walked out of time" I knew how the final piece was going to look.

Time Stays, We Go

'Time Stays, We Go', 2013

'The viewer observing this painting takes on the role of next up on the clock, to have their time, cast their shadow on its face. Also, in ancient Greek the soul of a dead person was associated with a butterfly, that's why I included one and gave it a large presence in the painting. It also represents the transience of life.'

Concentrating mostly on private commissions for the last eight years has led to pieces like this year's 'The Lost Man', a painting with no pre-arranged client Smyth describes as 'one of my own'. Nevertheless, they're still eagerly snapped up by his loyal collectors.

'I have had a lot on this year and at times could feel my understanding of my identity shifting,' he adds. 'There were times I felt lost.' 

The Lost Man

'The Lost Man', 2015

'The central figure is in the dark looking for direction. Turn the painting on its side and you can see he is actually inside his own head but at the same time outside it calling to the lost version of himself; a me, myself and I thing going on in this piece'.

Down Arts Centre hosts the works of George H Smyth from September 3 - October 3.