ARTHUR JEDSON SMALLEY
Arthur Jedson Smalley, Detail of Maryland Wooded Landscape, acrylic on board, 2020, 41 x 46 inches
ARTHUR JEDSON SMALLEY
Lives and works in Baltimore, MD.
BFA Parsons School of Design, New York, NY
MFA Yale University, New Haven, CT
MD SUNY Buffalo, NY
Arthur Jedson Smalley is an artist who is deeply committed to the balancing act of control and chance. In fact, it is an essential part of his creativity. Smalley makes sculptures in wood, using both found and milled lumber, which form organic M bius strips, and paintings of landscapes using latex house paints dripped from brushes attached to long sticks. The tension between the artist’s hand and the inherent tendencies of the medium tips one way or the other within the course of making the work. It is only in the struggle between artist and material that Smalley is uncomfortable enough to be comfortable with the results.
Smalley starts his paintings with a particular landscape in mind, one that he is deeply familiar with and visits often to study its forms and the way light plays across its features (only very rarely does he paint en plein air). Working with the painting surface (he uses artists’ board not canvas) lying on the floor, Smalley drips colors onto the board, all the while trying to control what that daubs or drips do. Because of the length of the tool of application and the viscosity of the paints, Smalley must embrace the pooling of the paint, accepting and counting on any accidents. He says, “paintings are compromises,” and admits that he tries to paint from his subconscious, letting go of any predetermined ideas save for the generalized landscape giving it visual structure.
It’s a ballet of color choices and placements of subsequent drips, which must interlock with the one to which it is adjacent. Accidents are accepted and desired. Smalley is an exceptional colorist. His palette is widely varied and works perfectly. The landscapes’ dappled light achieved through drips of colors makes the paintings sparkle and creates movement. They elicit a feeling of walking through woods on a bright sunny day. The paintings are in the vein of the French Pointillists George Seurat and Paul Signac in that daubs of formless paint and juxtaposed colors coalesce to create shadows, tree limbs, and streams. The paintings take pure advantage of the human brain’s ability to fill in the gaps and change depending on one’s distance from the surface. While one can focus on the composition that reveals itself, one can also shift focus to the negative spaces between the daubs, changing the composition yet again. At once abstract and completely readable as landscape, Smalley’s works are pure delight belying the struggle and tension that goes into their creation.