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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Eric Smith

In their own words

Recorded 1962

Eric Smith
Audio: 2 minutes

I have rarely made sketches for my paintings. Some painters do a great many drawings before they tackle the major work, but I usually go straight to the canvas or the Masonite panel. I have no real reason; I cannot explain why it seems necessary for me to get straight to the board, but I’ve always found it so. I’ve many times said to myself that I was going to do a lot of drawings, but I no sooner start than I move across to the prepared board.

Sometimes I have a particular subject in mind, religious or otherwise, but most often than not I just start painting. This seems necessary for me, to just let the thing grow, to really try and find out about myself, let the thing happen, and as the forms appear on the canvas they suggest something to me, something perhaps to do with a subject matter, and if the forms seem dynamic enough, things are working and exciting level and I push that thing on to a particular subject matter.

It is so hard today, we have nothing to hang our hat onto, and it’s a case of really digging down deep to find out about yourself. You take a risk here that you won’t be understood.

I have always been concerned with the human condition, whether the tragedy or aspirations of man. And everywhere new relationships are springing up which must be felt and explored, and in this way, I must create my own language to express the depth of my feelings about these things.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Eric Smith is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

Audio source

National Library of Australia, Hazel de Berg collection

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Eric Smith

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency