6 October – 7 November 2020

Starkwhite is delighted to present Thin Air, Australian artist Gemma Smith’s first solo exhibition at the gallery and the beginning of an ongoing relationship with Starkwhite.

Gemma Smith’s painting has presented colourful compositions of geometrical shapes and crystalline forms, bold and gesturally painted surfaces that create a dialogue between colour, form, and surface. Thin Air explores Smith’s experimentation with the language of painting, including both very pale or almost black art works exhibited alongside her characteristic gestural works.

At the heart of Gemma Smith’s studio practice is process and discipline. Structure gives each body of work its distinctive formal language, but is matched by an intention to retain a practice that remains exploratory and open. Included in the exhibition are two Shadow Paintings and two translucent layered works, both part of a decade long investigation exploring the blocking, translucency, and opacity of paint. Smith’s practice is labour intensive – the layered works are returned to again and again, one semi-transparent layer added each day, sometimes wiped away if it is deemed to be not working. Smith’s labour and physicality become central to our encounter with and understanding of her practice. The Shadow Paintings capture the extent of her arm’s reach across the canvas, their open, loose ribbons of colour offering evidence of how the paint was pulled across the surface. These works incorporate layering and overpainting, revising, obscuring, and reinventing relationships across the canvas. Here overpainting, or erasure, becomes an act of creation.

In 2017 Smith initiated a body of work in very pale tones, offering only a suggestion of colour across the canvas. With delicately hued surfaces that further the artist’s ongoing exploration of the perception of volume and depth through colour, the Threshold paintings offer an airy, purified world of painting. At first glance these paintings appear white, but closer looking reveals they are ever so gently tinted by soft and ambiguous clouds of colour – a mesmerising hint of soft petal-pink, wispy green, or pale straw. The slow and considered looking that these nuanced paintings provoke is matched by the process of their creation. Smith adds the smallest hint of colour to vast amounts of titanium white, blending at the intersection of each colour while eliminating marks from the surface. She repeats this over six or more layers, adjusting the quantities of pigment with each coat so as to find compositional balance.

Presented in the gallery also is Field (2020), a painting that initially seems inky black and the polar opposite of Smith’s pale and delicately hued expanses. Yet Field is rich with colour, composed from five distinct highly pigmented paints. Careful inspection reveals raw umber, cool blue, maroon and other tones emerging from the dark. Field has been made with a similar methodology to the Threshold paintings, and like the Threshold works, is such a subtle and complex testing of colour and form.“It takes time and physical proximity to see them properly” Smith explains, a welcome antidote to a world growing tired of digitally mediated encounters.

Colour has been described as the abiding subject matter and content of Gemma Smith’s work. If it is true that looking is always active, not passive, what do we make of her paintings where nothing except the barest hint of colour exists? In as much as their delicate shifts in tone continue the artist’s ongoing exploration of pictorial depth they also seem to broach something more, something suggested in the series’ title. Thresholds are a penultimate moment or location. We can be on the threshold of rage or literally about to cross a physical structure marking the border of two spaces. Thresholds are points of beginning – places, moments, or metaphorical tipping points which once crossed cause something to occur or be manifest. And what of Smith’s pale, near white surfaces? There is an intense feeling of possibility and even of forbidden magic on the borders of things. Gemma Smith skilfully keeps us there, just as how her use of very pale or near black surfaces intensifies our perception of the colour she does employ, she suspends this penultimate moment keeping us on the threshold immersed in a visually and sensually mesmerising space.

Gemma Smith studied at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney, between 1997 and 1999; and in 2004 at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.

Since 2000, Smith’s work has featured in more than 100 exhibitions. Notable among them are: Rhythm Sequence, UNSW Galleries, Sydney, 2019; Superposition of three types, Artspace, Sydney, 2017; Painting. More Painting, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2016; Pittsburgh Biennial, Pittsburgh Centre for the Arts, Pittsburgh, 2014; Forcefields, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2014; Case Study: Gemma Smith Considers the Work of Margo Lewers, Penrith Regional Gallery, Sydney, 2011; Cubism  & Australian Art, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, 2009; Gemma Smith: Entanglement Factor, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne 2009; Contemporary Australia: Optimism, Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 2008; Primavera, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, 2008.

Smith has exhibited regularly with Sarah Cottier Gallery since 2006 and with Milani Gallery, Brisbane since 2008. Smith’s work is held in museum, corporate and private collections, including those of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; Queensland College of Art and Griffith Artworks, Brisbane; Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane; University of Queensland, Brisbane; Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne; Murdoch University, Perth; Deakin University, Melbourne; Artbank, Sydney; KPMG, Brisbane; Gaden’s Lawyers, Brisbane; QIC, Brisbane; and UBS, Sydney.

Smith has produced several public artworks, including Triple Tangle, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia Foyer Commission, 2018; Collision and Improvisation (ceiling), 2012, Queen Elizabeth II Courts of Law, Brisbane; and Synchro (Peach/Red Oxide), 2010, Brisbane Airport.

Smith was born in Sydney and based there until 2004; in Brisbane from 2004 to 2012; and in Pittsburgh, United States, from 2012 to 2014. She currently lives and works in Sydney.





Layla Rudneva-Mckay | I Roll

15 February 2022 - 19 March 2022

Fiona Pardington | Tarota

16 November – 18 December 2021

Fiona Pardington | Tarota Preview

5 October – 7 October 2021

Jan van der Ploeg | The Other Window

17 August – 12 October 2021

Laith McGregor | Second Wind

3 July 2021 – 7 August 2021

Richard Maloy | Maternal Routine

3 June - 19 June 2021

The Auckland Art Fair 2021

24.02 - 28.02

Will Cooke | Every Wall Is A Door

15 January 2021 - 13 February 2021

Whitney Bedford - Bohemia

Seung Yul Oh: Horizontal Loop

John Reynolds: RocksInTheSky...

For Pink Pussycat Club | as part of THE BILL

Fiona Pardington | Childish Things

Seung Yul Oh memmem

Rebecca Baumann Once More With Feeling


The Armory Show 2010 | 1001 Nights
an installation by John Reynolds

Art LA Contemporary 2010

ShContemporary 2008 | Gavin Hipkins, Hye Rim Lee, Jae Hoon Lee and Grant Stevens

Jonny Niesche | Poikilos | 17 November - 22 December



Performative Geographies

Sampler 2020

Gordon Walters: From the Archive

Richard Maloy

Rebecca Baumann: New Work

Jan van der Ploeg | The Other Window | 17 August to 12 October

the artists in conversation, The Estate of L. Budd et al.

Art of Wine

Billy Apple® and Tāme Iti: Flagged

Clinton Watkins

Yuk King Tan

Sampler 2019

TIKI: Orphans of Māoriland



Ani O'Neill

Laith McGregor | Second Wind | July 3 - August 7

Alicia Frankovich

Martin Basher: Untitled

The Estate of L.Budd_et al.

Gavin Hipkins: Block Units

John Stezaker: Collages

Grant Stevens - The Mountain and the Waterfalls

Gordon Walters



Len Lye: Love Springs Eternal

Richard Maloy | Things I have Seen

Michael Zavros | The Silver Fox

Martin Basher | Devil at the Gates of Heaven

Daniel von Sturmer, Luminous Figures

Martin Basher | Hawaiian Tropic

Nabokov's Blues: The Charmed Circle

John Reynolds 2017

BIll Henson | 1985 -2021 | 21 May - 19 June

On the Grounds

Billy Apple

Beyond Landscape

John Reynolds | WalkWithMe...

Laith McGregor | Swallow the Sun

Matt Henry | Analogues

Daniel Crooks | Vanishing Point

Material Candour 2016

Fiona Pardington | 100% Unicorn

Layla Rudneva-Mackay: Running Towards Water

Martin Basher Birds of Paradise | 13 April - 14 May

Clinton Watkins | lowercase

Whitney Bedford 2016 | Lost and Found

Alicia Frankovich | The Female has Undergone Several Manifestations

Fiona Pardington | The Popular Recreator

Gavin Hipkins | Block Paintings

Gordon Walters: Gouaches and a Painting from the 1950s

In Motion

Laith McGregor | Somewhere Anywhere

Starkwhite Queenstown | New Location

TOTEM | A Starkwhite exhibition curated by Mary Morrison

Group Show

Martin Basher | Jizzy Velvet

John Reynolds BLUTOPIA

Gavin Hipkins Erewhon

Grant Stevens Hold Together, Fall Apart

Michael Zavros Bad Dad

Not Another Art Fair | 24 February -3 April


Layla Rudneva-Mackay


Glen Hayward I don't want you to worry about me

Matt Henry High Fidelity

Richard Maloy All the things I did by Richard Maloy

Li Xiaofei

John Reynolds Vagabondage

Clinton Watkins Frequency Colour

BAZINGA! curated by Robert Leonard

Starkwhite Queenstown 29 January - 26 February

Whitney Bedford: This for That

Jin Jiangbo: Rules of Nature

Martin Basher

Billy Apple®: $9,020 AND $5,750 TOP UPS

Jim Speers Long Days

Ross Manning: Field Emmissions

Peter Peryer Edition

Jae Hoon Lee Antarctic Fever

Greetings from Los Angeles curated by Brian Butler

Seung Yul Oh HUGGONG