Art sparks enduring relationships. Consider Bill Campbell,
cofounder of William Campbell Contemporary Art in Fort Worth, who was struck by a painting he saw while visiting the home of his friend, the late Dr. William F. Runyon, in 2004.
After inquiring about the work, he learned that the artist, John Holt Smith, was the art collector’s stepson.
Following that conversation, Campbell pursued Smith to add to the gallery’s venerated roster.
In September of the following year, Campbell mounted Smith’s solo show Sequence: The Light We Remember To See, For Bill in memory of the artist’s stepfather, lost to leukemia.
Essential to all humans, light pivots through morning sunrise and evening sunset,
ALL THE LIGHT WE CAN SEE then on to moonlight, when the glowing orb takes over and adds mystery to the chromatic spectrum.
Light continues to plays a fundamental role in Smith’s practice; through the use of imaging spectrometry,
he bridles light signatures to create work that reverberates between the individual
bands of color derived from his source material: the human eye, stem cells, wildflowers, landscapes, and more.
Beginning with a photograph, he takes a slice of the image and digitally stretches it to create a linear matrix of colors derived from the whole.
The reduced reference image is used to make an identically color-accurate painting
by applying hundreds of layers of airbrushed acrylic enamel on to aluminum.
“It’s amazing that anyone can be that patient. Each band of color is painted about eight or nine times,” Campbell says.
And some of the “strictly ordered lines” might be only the breadth of a single hair.
“There’s a simplicity with the lines and the color, and even though it’s minimal, there’s a softness to it, with a blurring effect,” enthuses Pam Campbell, Bill’s wife and partner.
Smith’s ongoing Oculus—derived from rotating the color sequence to create a concentric circle,
like eddying water—and his Sequence paintings, which refined his explorations with spectral color, are, like much of Smith’s work, science-based and trace back to a high school physics class.
His technique is similar to that of Old Masters, wherein the translucent glaze is applied multiple times—a skill he gleaned from a yearlong painting residency in Florence, Italy.
“Rarely will paint straight from the tube result in the dynamic, vibrant color we may be seeking. Neither will it interact with adjacent colors as you might want or predict.
ALL THE LIGHT WE CAN SEE That is where a deeper knowledge of how great painters painted really comes in handy,” says Smith.
“In more ways than I can express, the residency just solidified my desire to try as hard as I could to be an artist,” he continues. “That whatever the obstacles that pursuit would present, it was worth it.”
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