Ted Smith: Ideal Forms

This exhibition explored the life and work of the late Kamloops painter and marks a donation of his materials to the Kamloops Museum & Archives.

Smith began art school in his late twenties and spent his career investigating abstraction through painterly depictions of the Kamloops landscape. The paintings, photos, and artifacts in Ideal Forms emphasize Smith’s interest in the natural physical features of the region and his commitment to the pure properties of paint. In continuation of a 2014 retrospective of the artist by the Kamloops Art Gallery, this exhibition brings forward correspondence and biographical information about the artist and presents both complete and unfinished works to cast light on his iterative approach to composing in paint.

Produced with thanks to Annette Dominik, Phil and Mary Kay Claydon, Peter and Jennifer Murphy, Charo Neville, Margaret Chrumka, Krystyna Halliwell, Peter Mahaits, Patricia McDonald

Ted Smith was born in Vernon, BC on April 8, 1933. His mother, Alma Louisa Smith worked as a teacher and his father, James Alexander Smith, as a livestock inspector. Smith spent his early childhood in Lumby, BC before moving to Barriere and, finally, to Kamloops in 1942. After completing high school, Smith worked for the Canadian National Railway and studied in several programs at Victoria College (now University of Victoria) and the University of British Columbia. An aptitude test in 1960 prompted Smith’s decision to enroll at the Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr University). Smith graduated with a focus in drawing and painting under the mentorship of instructors that included Jack Shadbolt and Don Jarvis. In 1964, Smith left Vancouver to return to Kamloops where he would dedicate the remaining 52 years of his life to painting.

Smith’s interests in opera and the “high culture” of the BC interior—fly fishing—echo a tension of interests that propelled him as an artist. Like an angler, Smith sought meaningful and reciprocal engagement with nature. He would often refer to himself as, “a painter of landscapes.” At the same time, Smith’s work shows an operatic passion for the form of his discipline: the paint itself. With one eye aimed at the topography of Kamloops, Smith transposed its features into a painterly language traceable to Late American Modernism. That language would remain more or less consistent throughout his career. With his medium and mode of expression stabilized, Smith sustained a focussed, iterative investigation into the organization of colour and gestural brush marks in compositions that drew forms from nature together with the pure characteristics of paint.

Smith’s work is found in private collections across Canada, the US, and Europe. His work has been recognized locally through a longstanding artist–dealer relationship with the former Oasis Gallery, private showings, and through exhibitions at the Kamloops Art Gallery (KAG). The KAG, which this year celebrates 40 years of operation, made Smith’s 1969 painting, Spring Beach #5 its first acquisition in 1979. It went on to include Smith’s work in several group exhibitions, and produced two solo shows, Ted Smith: Three Decades of Colour (1992) and, Ted Smith: A Retrospective (2014).