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Geoffrey Smedley

(Gibsons, British Columbia, Canada)

Geoffrey Smedley, The Numbers (side elevation), 1992-2000
Geoffrey Smedley, The Numbers (back elevation), 1992-2000 Geoffrey Smedley, The Name of the Piece, 1979-1982 Geoffrey Smedley, Recalled Head and The Numbers, 1992-2000
Born in London, England, Canadian sculptor Geoffrey Smedley studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College in London and served in the army from 1945-48 with the Royal Engineers. Smedley currently works and lives on Gambier Island, British Columbia.

Geoffrey Smedley first came to Canada as a visiting artist at Queen's University in 1977 and was professor at the University of British Columbia from 1978 to 1992. Since then, he has given numerous lectures at universities and art colleges in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. In addition, he has presented papers at national and international conferences, among them, Art and Value in the Age of Amnesia by the International Association of Art (UNESCO) Conference on Art and Society and Piero della Francesca between Art and Science, an international conference that marked the 500th anniversary of Piero's death. He has also acted as past chair of Sculpture Now - The Postmodern Question, a conference organized by the Universities Art Association of Canada.

Geoffrey Smedley's sculpture has been exhibited at more than sixty galleries in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, including seven solo shows. His works can be found in various public collections, including The Arts Council of Great Britain, Victoria and Albert Museum, the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

Before moving to Canada, Geoffrey Smedley worked for many years in the constructivist tradition, and as a result, he became part of the Systems Group. He participated in two exhibitions with the group, the first of which was organized by the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1972, and the second in association with The Design Activity International in 1974. After this period, his method became intuitive, mathematical and site specific. Subsequently, he evolved from using specific landscape sites to the use of language. It was during the period between 1975-77 that he questioned the notion of light, time and memory in sculpture. Combining disciplines such as mathematics and philosophy with accomplished craftsmanship, his highly intellectual work functioned as a metaphor for language, time and memory.

Since Smedley's arrival in Canada in 1977, his work has focused on representing three cosmographies - three specific ways that depict how the world is seen and understood: the Archetypical, the Ideal and the Robotic. A sculptural installation reflecting the architectural motif of the primitive hut represented the Archetypical. Entitled The Name of the Piece, (1) it addressed the relationship between representation and being, between historicism and history, between light and time. To represent the Ideal, Smedley then turned to the Renaissance. Inspired by the Renaissance artist Piero della Francesca's drawing of the mathematically ideal proportions of the human head, he created two installations. The first of these, Memory, Measure, Time and Numbers, (2) a sculptural meditation, was presented at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design, University College, U.K in 2000. In 2001, he then created Piero en tĂȘte/ Meditations on Piero, (3) which explores the links between architecture and other disciplines, such as geometry, cosmology and human anatomy.

With his third cosmography, the Robotic, Geoffrey Smedley is currently working on his extensive sculpture-installation Descarte's Clown, a philosophical reflection on the mechanization of man.

Dominique Fontaine © 2004 FDL

(1) For more information about this installation, see the exhibition's catalogue The Name of the Piece, 1982, published by the Vancouver Art Gallery. 106 pp., 70 illustrations.

(2) See Memory, Measure, Time, and Numbers, catalogue, 72 pp. 23 illustration, ISBN 1899817 026,. Editor: Peter Quartermain.

(3) See catalogue published on the occasion of the exhibition Meditations on Piero: Sculptures by Geoffrey Smedley, presented at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal from May 2 to September 3, 2001.