It’s not so much what to paint as how to paint, the “how” being the significant form. The emphasis on the actual process of making a painting.
A dialogue with the grammar, the language of painting. The laws of chance. Natural and unreasonable order just held in check. Fragments of a voluptuous world. An approach that concentrates on the study of consciousness and the objects of direct experience. Neither of which benefits from narrow definition, the truth is in the dialogue and this is constantly changing, as conversations do. A rapport between painter and canvas. An invitation to the viewer to participate. To expose the guts of the process.
It’s about what can be done with the stuff, the paint. You’ve got to be madly in love with the stuff!
“Nikki Hill-Smith is an abstract painter who, in the blink of an eye, can teleport her viewer from the window seat of a plane destined for some opalescent island in the sea below it to the slide of a microscope in a laboratory. Squiggles and smears; dribbles and daubs of paint simultaneously embrace optics both macro and micro so that, from the very first instance, the art and act of looking at a painting by Hill-Smith is driven by a delicious discombobulation. One that flusters the haptics of space and scale; that disturbs the dynamics of delineation and composition; and that completely confounds the very metrics of time itself. Time which we know zooms around us at the speed of light and yet, here, seems to pause and ponder a coagulation of experiences, efflorescing before our very eyes in luxurious slow-motion.
Like a familiar yet always fractured dream, offering synaptic splashes in the brooding miasma of our (sub)consciousness, Hill-Smith’s mellifluous take on both abstraction as a concept and painting as a practice is a sheer visual delight, but one that always remains intellectually charged. The viewer isn’t just captivated by her painterly fizz but is held captive by the hypotheses Hill-Smith’s paintings arrest. Those centred on the mechanics of conception and perception; the contest for comprehension and, above all else, unveiling and revelling in the simple action of painting. Hill-Smith’s work invites you on a journey, through passes and ages known and unknown – signifying and signified – offering us all the opportunity to stop and listen with our eyes to her euphonic interruption of the infinite.
Hill-Smith’s ongoing series of paintings – a body of work she refers to as Infinitely Interruptible – all begin with the same interrogation of space. Simultaneously flattened in negation to and of itself, yet modelled by a kaleidoscope of colour and movement, space evolves into a pictorial crucible that pulses in perpetual flux. Just as with the work of Wassily Kandinsky, Hill-Smith’s marks deliver a sense of space but without articulating their usual demarcators.
These paintings have no horizons; no perspective; no ‘scape to speak of. The artist somehow seems to stretch the continuum of space and time; place and tense to such a point that everything slows down on her surface. The adagio of her zippy application curiously engendering a largo of contemplation. So it is that space becomes the servant to the very act of painting itself. It doesn’t even offer a ground upon which to stand but rather a turbulence upon which Hill-Smith attempts to make her mark. Which, in turn, explains her ever-moving, always recalibrating flurries of execution. Space does not offer a stage upon which Hill-Smith choreographs in paint. Space devours. It pushes and pulls against any attempt at registration, assaulting any possible cohesion of Image and instead unleashing the euphoria and frenzy of Hill-Smith’s eddy of marks that only – can only – evince their indexical, mystical electricity”.
– Matt Carey-Williams