master of stillness

Vale, Jeffrey Smart – Master of Stillness
Born Adelaide South Australia 1921
Died Arezzo Italy June 20 2013


Words move, music

Only in time; but that
which is only living

Can only die. Words,
after speech, reach

Into the silence. Only
by the form, the

Can words or music

The stillness, as a
Chinese jar still

Moves perpetually in its

– T S Eliot, Burnt Norton, Four Quartets


JeffreySmart: Labyrinth
Labyrinth – Jeffrey Smart’s last painting


If a good painting comes off, it has a stillness,
it has a perfection, and that’s as great as anything
that a musician or a poet can do.
– Jeffrey Smart


Jeffrey Smart liked to compare himself to an old carpenter working away at his bench, an image that may seem surprisingly humble to those who knew him as an ebullient, witty and outspoken man. But he understood as well as Proust that the man and the artist are different beings; that the man can be garrulous, hilariously silly and take pleasure in superficial distractions, but the artist operates at another level, descending to a solitary and silent depth where the work of the imagination unfolds.

Those who have been to the house near Arezzo in Tuscany know that the short walk across the courtyard to the studio represented this transition from one world to another, from extroversion to introversion, from banter to concentration. “I have to go and paint a whore by the roadside now,” he observed to me as he took his leave from the conversation to resume his meditative labour.

It must have been this that Jeffrey missed most in the past year or two of reduced mobility, for the vocation of an artist is not one from which you can retire; the work at the easel is life itself.

Smart was a great Australian painter, but he was also an example and role model of how to be a great painter. The first lesson he offers us is the absolute necessity of following one’s instinct for what seems true and important, and not allowing oneself to be drawn by fashion into the vacuous and the derivative. The second is to find a subject substantial enough to sustain one’s interest across time, and to allow for development in depth without mere repetition. And the third is to evolve a working method that allows one to progress towards the realisation of inspiration in concrete form, to turn ideas and intuitions into pictures; and this where we must admire the devoted, stubborn, daily work of the old carpenter at his bench.

– Christopher Allen
National art critic for The Australian, and author of Jeffrey Smart: Unpublished Paintings 1940-2007 (Melbourne, 2008)
Read the full version Christopher Allen’s article, published in The Weekend Australian June 22, 2013 HERE

This page has links that will be of interest to those who would like more info on Jeffrey Smart and his work.

“not so fast, buster”


Amanda Robins: Vessel II Heart

Amanda Robins, Vessel II (Heart), 2003, 115 x 178 cm
pencil on Arches watercolour paper

Australian art critic and author Robert Hughes has died in New York after a long struggle with worsening health problems.

I wish to honor him for all the well-known contributions he has made to our culture, including the controversial ones, and also for his insight that “we have had a gutful of fast art and food”.

Without being remotely aware of it, he was part of the team of thinkers firing my motivation to compile the awakened eye website.  He features on the slow art page, which includes a brief review of the treasure of a book Slow Art: Meditative Process in Painting and Drawing, by Australian artist Amanda Robins.  It seems fitting to accompany this post with one of her exquisite drawings.

The camera, if it’s lucky, may tell a different truth to drawing – but not a truer one.  Drawing brings us into a different, a deeper and more fully experienced relation to the object.  A good drawing says: “not so fast, buster”.  We have had a gutful of fast art and fast food.

What we need more of is slow art: art that holds time as a vase holds water: art that grows out of modes of perception and whose skill and doggedness makes you think and feel; art that isn’t merely sensational, that doesn’t get its message across in 10 seconds, that isn’t falsely iconic, that hooks onto something deep-running in our natures.

– Robert Hughes in The Guardian, 2004

SBS news report

Amanda Robins’ website

Amanda Robins at the artisans’ gallery

meditative process made visible

slow art