Blu Smith always knew he was destined to be an artist but he never quite envisioned himself becoming the abstract expressionist painter he is renowned as today. In fact, Blu emerged from the opposite sphere of the art world. Through art school he had prided himself as a representational painter and was even known to openly criticize abstraction as “a cop-out for artists who could not paint realistically.” But ironically, reality itself would deter Blu from his artistic path in realism and instead take him on a colorful learning curve of real world experience that would ultimately rebirth him as a celebrated abstract painter known for his mastery of light.
In this exclusive AXS interview, Blu Smith shares his personal journey from his hopeful dreams as a struggling artist and the cathartic unearthing of his true artistic calling.
Growing up in Canada, Blu discovered at an early age he was exceptionally talented at two very different things: hockey and drawing. He pursued both passions with equal amounts of vigor until he reached a level of junior league hockey where you either “go pro or go home.” So art it was. By then, Blu’s drawing had evolved to his more remarkable talent for representational painting and it became his focus as he pursued his Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Victoria. “I had always considered myself a painter of representational people. I expressed what I was thinking and feeling through realism and I was actually quite vocal about my dislike of abstract art,” Blu says. “I naively wrote it off as something for people who couldn’t paint realistically. But really, abstraction is a whole other language that I simply didn’t understand at the time.”
After a career as a sign painter and graphic designer, Blu turned to his art as a form of personal exploration and he made way for cans of paints, arrays of brushes and large-scale canvasses. But this revitalized emerging artist could no longer be confined to the limits and restraints of representational paint. Instead, Blu began a new regime of uninhibited expressionism simply as an exercise to loosen up and explore his creativity. Attacking the canvasses with powerful strokes and vivid colors, Blu realized he had tapped into something that allowed him to channel himself in a way that he never thought possible. “Abstraction was like learning an entirely different language that opened up a whole new world of possibilities. This new way of painting allowed me to find my true voice as an artist and essentially my life purpose as a painter.”
As his work evolved from his expressions of internal angst to more sensory driven reflections of the external world, Blu further developed his distinctive style of powerful color compositions on illuminating backdrops of light. Blu explains how his work took on a more 3D, atmospheric quality through the use of broad washes, textures, incisive line drawing and balancing the spaces throughout with illuminating patterns of light. “The work I’m doing today has morphed from simple marks and basic color pairings into complex combinations of abstract concepts, organic shapes with backdrops of glowing light filled spaces,” he says. "I look at my paintings not as individual pieces but rather as a living, breathing and constantly changing body of work."
A dark, underground and windowless space called the “Cave” is what Blu calls his studio. “I need to be shut off from everyone and everything in order to create.” He confesses that it’s this lack of natural light in his studio that compels him to create these luminous and vibrant canvasses. “You always want what you don’t have,” he laughs. “Light is the one constant element that creates the power within my work and the strength that pulls me through life.”
From “The Evolution Series” to “Physical Graffiti” to “Light Filled Spaces” to his most recent series, “Sleight Of Hand,” Blu Smith’s collection reflects his masterful transition through every aspect of the abstract expressionist form. His celebrated works continue to exhibit internationally throughout the US, Canada and Europe, including world class venues such as Florence Biennale in Italy, Nevada Museum of Fine Art in Las Vegas, Red Dot Contemporary Art Fair in Miami and the Affordable Art Fair in New York.
Blu’s work is currently on display at the following US and Canadian galleries:
To find out more about Blu Smith, his collection of work, and upcoming exhibitions and workshops, go to the official website: www.blusmithgallery.com