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Media Release

August 18 2011

Jeffrey Smart to receive honorary doctorate from UniSA

Jeffrey Smart Self-portrait 1993, oil on canvas 48x45cm. Copyright Jeffrey Smart.Jeffrey Smart Self-portrait 1993, oil on canvas 48x45cm. Copyright Jeffrey Smart.

The work of one of Australia’s most important living painters, Jeffrey Smart, will be recognised when he is awarded an honorary doctorate degree at UniSA’s mid-year graduations this month.

Smart is arguably the most distinguished graduate of UniSA’s South Australian School of Art (SASA).

Next week he will receive the honorary degree of Doctor of the University, which is awarded to a person of eminence who has made a distinguished contribution to public service or a field of academic endeavour. The award will be conferred in absentia.

Smart was born in Adelaide in 1921, and his artistic career spans more than 60 years. He studied in France at Paris’ La Grand Chaumiere and the Academie Montmartre, and later lived on the island of Ischia - on the western edge of the Gulf of Naples in Italy.

Back in Australia in the 1950s he worked as arts critic for the Daily Telegraph newspaper, presenter on the ABC’s Children’s Hour, and Art teacher at the King’s School, Parramatta in Sydney. During this time his artwork was exhibited at the Macquarie Gallery in Sydney. He moved back to Italy in 1962.

Smart’s precise attention to clean lines, composition and issues of geometry make his eye-catching paintings stand-out amongst modern Australian art.

His works are well-known for focusing on urban vistas, featuring industrial wastelands, high-rise construction and concrete street-scapes. Smart also uses brightly-coloured foregrounds which often contrast with murky, darkened skies overhead.

In 2012 the Samstag Museum of Art will host a major exhibition of Smart’s work as part of UniSA’s 21st birthday celebrations. The exhibition, Master of Stillness: Jeffrey Smart Paintings 1940-2011, will be held at the Museum and Carrick Hill, from October 12 - December 14, 2012.

The free exhibition will be curated by distinguished SASA alumnus Barry Pearce, who recently retired after 30 years as Head Curator of Australian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It will feature 50 of Smart’s masterpieces - a selection of his early South Australian work will be shown at Carrick Hill.

Pearce says the honorary doctorate is a welcome recognition of Smart’s importance as an artist, and of Adelaide’s importance in shaping the artist as a young man.

“Adelaide had, and still has, a particular topography which embedded itself in Smart’s visual bloodstream as a child,’’ Pearce says. “Here, in the still light of a city set out on grids with long straight lines and vanishing points – is where Jeffrey Smart was born and substantially formed as a painter.

“UniSA’s 21st anniversary provides the perfect opportunity to bring his vision home to Adelaide where it all started. For at the age of 90 he has recently retired from painting, and for the first time it is possible to define his career from beginning to end."

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