John Firth-Smith (b.1943) is widely considered one of the most important and influential living Australian artists. His story is remarkable.
Firth-Smith lives and works in Hill End. His studio is a fabulous tin shed surrounded by beautiful gardens and ponds, in the middle of the historic gold mining town. He also has an artist studio in Chippendale.
An avid collector – of pond yachts (he loaned his model collection to the Maritime Museum for a recent exhibition), vintage cars, banjos and cases, old brooms, sewing machines, rusted tools and other found archeological material from around his property and surrounding area – he is also an experienced yachtsman, sailing in three Sydney to Hobart races.
In an essay to accompany his latest exhibition at King Street Gallery on William, the artist recounts a journey of creativity – from art school in Darlinghurst in the early 1960s, then relocating with fellow artist Ian Van Wieringen to “an abandoned old house being used as a hay shed near Wattle Flat in an area known as Wyagdon”.
“It was extremely primitive living,” Firth-Smith recalls. “We had a shotgun for hunting rabbits and ducks, cooked on an open fire and washed in the nearby creek. The paintings from there were exhibited at the Hungry Horse Gallery in 1963.
“After leaving the bush, we both lived in a boat shed in Lavender Bay …”
As you might imagine, that’s just the beginning!
The paintings in the exhibition are about the artist’s “continuing love of the central west and Hill End surrounds” and combine “memories and recent responses to these environments”.
Rural Rust – John Firth-Smith Paintings, works on paper, sculpture
Until March 25, 2017 at King Street Gallery on William, Darlinghurst King Street Gallery