Richard Smith was born Letchworth, Hertfordshire. After military service with Royal Air Force in Hong Kong, he studied at St Albans School of Art and later undertook post-graduate studies at the Royal College of Art in London. He was awarded a Harkness Fellowship and travelled to America and spent several years there painting and teaching. Much of Smith’s early work was concerned with packaging and idea of American culture. He was never, however, interest in simply painting replicas of the objects he found interesting, but rather in trying to find ways of representing them in a two-dimensional form. His work gradually became more minimal, often painted in one colour with a second colour used only as an accent. In trying to find ways of transposing ideas, Smith began to question the two-dimensional properties of art itself, as well as the conventional materials of painting in the West – canvas and stretcher – and to find ways by which a painting could express the shape of reality as he saw it. He began to take the canvas off the stretcher, letting it hang loose, or tied with knots, to suggest sails or kites – objects which could change with new directions rather than being held rigid against a wall, and taking painting close to the realm of sculpture. These principles he carried into his graphic work by introducing cut, folded and stapled elements into his prints; some works were multi-leaved screenprinting, and others printed onto three-dimensional fabricated metal.


Further reading:
Richard Smith: retrospective exhibition of graphics and multiples, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol 1970
Richard Smith: Seven Exhibitions 1961-1975, Tate Gallery, London