Painter, print maker and potter, Guy Grey-Smith was a multi talented artist whose influence in Western Australian art circles was only equalled by that of JWR Linton.
At the start of his career, Grey-Smith was a modernist and his interpretation of a scene was quite literal using high key colours and a cubist technique to delineate form. For the Western Australian art buyer of the 1950’s his manner was bold and unconventional and his spectators were found with curators, fellow painters and the younger generation of art buyers. Needless to say sale of his paintings didn’t enable him to earn the income to sustain a family so he taught part time and sold functional and decorative pottery from his home and studio in Darlington.
In the early 1960’s he deviated from his modernist method and pursued an abstract style that was influenced by Nicolas De Stael. His palette didn’t alter greatly to that of his modernist period but as he preferred to paint in a robust manner he introduced a beeswax emulsion to the medium that allowed him to trowel the paint on to his board and add an additional physicality to the act of painting. He also painted on a grander scale and begun to focus on the north of the state particularly in the Mount Augustus region.
The Saw Millers was painted in 1974 the same year he moved to Pemberton which is a timber town in the south of Western Australia. In this work his tone captures the cool and moisture laden atmosphere of the south west in contrast to the heat and dry of the North West where he was equally at home. Grey-Smith would describe his work as having “… not a visual truth but a truth of feeling.”
Grey-Smith’s figurative work in his abstract style was generally restricted to static nudes or portraits but in this work he has introduced movement. It is not the literal movement but the feeling of movement that he aspired to.