Blaise Smith \ Highly commended
My Parents, Allen and Elizabeth Smith, 2018
Oil on canvas, 70 x 100 cm
"When I visit home, this is the moment just before my parents turn to me and say ‘hello’. I suppose I like to imagine they are like this most of the time, until I arrive: old friends sitting like bookends, working away on their laptops, cooking up various projects. There is a deliberate but subtle nod to one of my all-time favourite paintings: Orpen’s Portrait of the Artist’s Parents in the National Gallery of Ireland's collection. It has been on my mind since I first saw it as a teenager and that was the reason I chose to paint my parents at either side of a table. I even tried to channel Orpen’s economy of touch in the technical way my paint is applied.
Another decision in the painting’s composition and construction is the contrast between the cool outdoor colours and the warm indoor colours. It describes my own feelings about my parents’ warmth and the emotional warmth of the home I grew up in with my four brothers and sisters. Anyway, as anybody who has visited knows, this is both literally and metaphorically true, as my mother likes to run the heating flat out all year round."
Blaise Smith is a figurative painter who has exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad. His artistic practice documents Irish life in the 21st century with painterly realist works observed from life. A key interest is portraying a community of people connected by a common purpose. The buildings and machinery they use are often an extension of that portrait. Smith’s work has addressed a year in the life of a Carlow School (‘Schoolwork’ 2011), the County Council in Cork, (‘Roadworks’ 2000) and the Irish Army (‘Weapons’ 2008). The artist has also painted vernacular farm sheds and landscapes near his home in Kilkenny and recently a five-metre-wide panoramic cityscape of Waterford. Smith has been commissioned to paint many notable portraits. His group portrait 8 Scientists for the Women on Walls Campaign won the 2017 US Council/Irish Arts Review Portraiture Award.