Clive Smith

Paintings by Clive Smith

Born in St. Albans, England in 1967, Clive Smith is a British painter currently living and working in New York. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts from Kingston Polytechnic in 1988, he moved to New York City where he worked until 1991 for fashion companies in New York, Paris and Naples. Smith then worked until 1996 as a men’s clothing designer for Gap’s clothing division, Banana Republic. From 1995 to 1997, he studied painting and drawing at New York City’s Art Students League under painter Peter Cox, who was best known for his landscapes.  

As a painter, Clive Smith is interested in how contemporary painting discusses modern social issues. His realistic portraiture work of two decades  possess a high degree of naturalism, executed in a style which is reminiscent of the middle-career work done by painter Lucian Freud. These stark portraits, which often present a sense of melancholy, are painted with a palette of blues, beiges, grays, browns and ochres. The body language of the singular figures, and even those in groups, most often projects a sense of isolation and vulnerability.

In 1998, Smith won the BP Award Third Prize in London’s National Portrait Gallery’s annual exhibition and, in  1999, won the BP First Award. The BP Award is the most important portrait prize in the world, and is considered the most prestigious competition in contemporary art.  

After researching advances within genomic technology and hybridization and grafting techniques in plants, Smith produced two new series of paintings: the 2015-2019 “Speculative Birds, Mammals and Insects on Books”, a series of paintings on books depicting new creatures whose patterns and colors could match the DNA of a specific painting, and the 2018-2019 “Transgenic Bouquets”, images of newly-composed plant species painted on wood panels in the manner of the Dutch Masters. 

Clive Smith expanded the range of his work with other series: “Beak, Claw, Hand and Brush” which depicted, on large canvases, bird nests positioned on decorative plates: “Speculative Bird Paintings”, a series of bird images whose feathered forms match known paintings; and “Different But the Same”, a series in time containing drawings and canvases  showing multiple images of a person generated over the course of days and months.

Clive Smith had his first solo exhibition in 1999 at Gallerie DeBellefeuille in Montreal, Canada. He has had multiple solo exhibitions at the Marlborough Galleries located in New York, London, and Madrid. Smith’s most recent solo show was at the Marc Straus Gallery located in the Lower East Side of New York City. 

His work is in many public collections such as the Cleveland Museum of Art; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City; and the National Portrait Gallery, London, which commissioned and now holds Smith’s portrait of Sir Ian McKellen.

Clive Smith’s website is located at: https://www.clivesmithstudio.com

Middle Insert Image: Clive Smith, “Miró Tragopan (Tragopan toward the Rainbow)”, Speculative Birds, Mammals and Inscects on Books Series, 2019, Oil, Gouache and Pencil on Found Book

Bottom Insert Image: Clive Smith, “Comfort Mound”, 1999, Oil on Canvas, Size Unknown

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