Name: Ron Smyth
Inspirations: Structure, Movement, Light and Shadow, Color (everything)
Favorite Artists to Follow: Jeremy Geddes, James Roper, Ben Grasso, Damon Soule, Oliver Vernon, Jason DeCaires Taylor, Josh Keyes, Agostino Arrivabene, Eric Lee Klingman, David Newbold
Artist’s Statement:As a Morgantown native, I studied fine arts at the University of West Virginia. Though painting in oils is the medium with which I prefer to communicate my thoughts and ideas, I have found an outlet, and indeed, inspiration in the creation and deconstruction of the functional objects in our modern culture.
A previous body of my work was based upon reinventing one purely utilitarian object, no longer wanted (and often considered refuse), into artwork that was not only different aesthetically but also served a completely different function. When I find the intrinsic beauty in materials I work to create art that conveys that vision to others.
In my most recent series of work, which began with the painting “Omega with 23 Jewels, 1917”, I have used a similar approach to the subject of my paintings: gentlemen’s pocket watches from the 1520’s to the 1950’s. I was inspired in this series by a master craftsman under whom I apprenticed, when he showed me what was hidden inside the ubiquitous gold pocket watch that one sees in any neighborhood antique shop. These functional pieces of art show the importance of time to both our forefathers and our modern cultures, as well as the infinite ingenuity and industriousness of mankind. There is beauty in these object that have no real reason to be so beautiful. My approach is to reduce a mechanical movement to individual pieces removed from their obvious setting, and are instead exhibited in a large format, so that I may prevent the viewer from trivializing it to an easily identifiable, and therefore easily dismissible, common object.
This series, when viewed as a whole, shows the similarity of design necessitated by function, as well as peculiarities of individual makers. At first glance, these pieces may be of any mechanical object, real or fictional. However, as the viewer sees a pattern begin to emerge, the discreet objects, specific moving parts and designs, will become evident. I title the works by the name of the watchmaker or, in rare cases, of a company such as Tiffany who would add some of the beautiful details (such as enameling or damaskeening) to the movements. Some movements may or may not be mechanically superior, but the quality of the decorative detail is worth noting. I also provide the date of the design, which may help the viewer, on their own, see the increasing complexity of the pieces. The technical advancements which may have inspired designs of other watchmakers at later dates may also be evident to some when viewing the series. On the other hand, each piece may be understood when viewed separately from the series, without the need for additional historical relevance.
Measuring the passage of time, whether by the changing seasons, the sun crossing the sky, or the movement of the stars, has ever been of interest to mankind. The earliest watches were so crude and inaccurate so as to only have a hand that indicated the hour. But these limitations did not discourage early watchmakers. Each innovation of mechanics was accompanied by an evolution in design, leading to a seemingly endless number of beautiful objects that are small enough to hold in one hand. These timepieces represent the imagination and labor of man for hundreds of years, yet have been widely supplanted by non-mechanical and mass-produced disposable watches, lacking any true beauty. Gone is the time when a watch would be passed down from generation to generation. Yet the timepieces themselves persevere. Many of the movements in my paintings are images of still functional and accurate timepieces. I hope, through my work, to open eyes to the beauty that can and does surround the most functional of objects.