Old Church by the Sea
Acrylic on Board
400 x 33mm
400 x 460mm Framed Size


C.N Smith began painting and drawing as a child, and it has always been his primary interest and pursuit. He attended Leeds College of Art and Design, where a friend introduced him to the Isles of Scilly. He spent the next ten years travelling as an itinerant worker between Europe and Scilly.

He returned to Scilly in 1980 and has lived there since – enjoying the simpler lifestyle as much as the landscape – and the elemental aspects of the environment have undoubtedly shaped his work.

Early influences

At the age of 16 during his first year at Art College he was fascinated by what is termed ‘abstract art’. He couldn’t pretend I understood it but felt an actual physical thrill when looking at these paintings, especially the work of the abstract expressionists. Researching these artists and the ideas that led them to such painting he came across Zen Buddhism, a major influence in American painting and poetry in the 1950s and 60s.

Zen and abstract expressionism have been an ongoing concern of his ever since. Alongside his figurative work he has always painted abstracts, not showing the work in his gallery for many years as he believed that visitors to the islands are drawn to the place, and abstracts by their very nature are not place specific. During the winter of 2005 to 2006 this long held interest came to the fore, and he decided to concentrate on this form of painting exclusively, to see if and how he could develop what feels to me to be the most honest approach to my craft.

Recent work

Concentrating on abstract work allowed him to re-engage completely with the processes and possibilities of paint. His recent work is not only a response to the landscape but also to the language of painting. Sometimes he approaches each new work with no subject in mind. He finds it in the painting as it evolves, using various means to apply the paint – rags, knives, cardboard, brushes and fingers. he likes acrylic for its fast-drying quality to keep his involvement with the painting unbroken.

\In figurative depictions of a location, more attention goes into making the mark exciting rather than descriptive. But whichever approach, the challenge is to find a presence – figurative or not – where the painting has a life in itself, beyond the suggestion of the title.

In October 2015 he closed his own gallery in order to slow down a little, and have more freedom to go out to draw and paint in the landscape.