Smeared with Toil

10 December 2011 - 4 January 2012

Each place we visit leaves an imprint on us, whether it is a memory, sound, smell or colour. We can be conscience of this lasting or at times fleeting experience, or it can live under our skin and in the distant parts of our mind to surface later.


I had no preconceived ideas to create work based on my visit to France and Italy. Whilst I was there with my family I made many drawings took many photographs and sat just looking. The bright green lush fields of Italy with the rolling valleys dotted with little villages and dwellings reminded me of my home on the North West Coast of Tasmania.


Small galleries that were everywhere in these towns had work that was poor, tacky, and based on the tourist trade but they also had little diamonds that shone brightly. Skilled painters some long dead, whose work was hung in loved municipal galleries. Finding these works gave me a great sense of delight. I did not know the names of the artists, they have not appeared in any books that I have read but here where their paintings to see and enjoy.


After we arrived home, unpacked and started to make order from all that we had seen, I started to go back into the studio. What came with me were the drawings, photographs, collected bits and pieces from the many galleries we visited and my memories. The work that I had completed before we went overseas was on the walls in the studio and I realised that in the little places right in the heart of Italy I had lost my reference point that is Bass Strait. That dead flat line of water out to the horizon was missing in my memories. It was replaced with a softer and less distinct merging of sky and land.


The starting point for these paintings was a small little reproduction of a landscape that had soft marks and gentle tones. That small little image might still be present in the next work or it might be painted out. It could well stay under my skin or in my memory and emerge at a later time and in other works. It might never be seen again. Or I might start looking at the landscape around me and find myself saying how much it reminds me of my time in Italy. The title of this show comes from a line from a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem.



And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can feel foot, being shod.


Patrick Grieve