It was sad news that Jeffrey Smart, highly respected Australian artist died this week and on the other side of the world in San Francisco, the De Young Museum is holding a Richard Diebenkorn exhibition, The Berkley Years.
My trip to the USA a while back was primarily a search for Diebenkorn paintings (and De Koonings of course). The major Australian Galleries have no Diebenkorn paintings in their collections. The National Gallery of Australia has a number of prints and the Art Gallery of NSW have just 2 etchings not on show. There was no other option than to visit the source.
Upon seeing them I realised it wasn’t just all about space and colour, it was the edges, where paint meets. Do I bring it up close and stop or push it over the edge of the next colour? Diebenkorn knew.
At the same time as Diebenkorn was dealing with his edges during the Berkley Years of 1953-196, Jeffrey Smart was painting The Cahill Expressway in 1962 in Australia. Smart had chosen to use those edges differently, crisp and hard.
Any artist familiar with Jeffrey Smart’s paintings recognise his roadside world and driving the expressway is becoming a figure within his composition.
My trip to Berkley, thousands of miles from a Jeffrey Smart world, over the Bay Bridge, a flash of overpasses and underpasses felt as though the two worlds collided. I wonder if they knew of each other’s work. Both were influenced by the likes of Cezanne and Edward Hopper. In the same way Smart and Diebenkorn have influenced my work. Fuzzy edges and overpasses.