Karen Smidth | Sea View

10 May - 20 June 2021

Karen Smidth’s (b. 1959 Aarhus, Denmark) prolific body of work includes landscape and still life paintings that span almost two decades.

In her early childhood, Smidth relocated from the city to a farm on the island of Fyn with her family. The idyllic setting set her free to roam and explore the landscape that inspired and engrained an enduring love of the natural world. When she was 17 she pursued an opportunity to study metal typography and began a four-year apprenticeship in typesetting with a traditional printing house on the western coast of Denmark. Four years later, Smidth moved to Copenhagen to attend design school and become a graphic designer. Smidth relocated to San Francisco in 1985 where she continued her career in international corporate identity and branding. These experiences were formative for Smidth’s later art practice, as she mastered aesthetic composition, an appreciation for striking landscapes and the fortitude for methodical workmanship.

In the late 1990s, Smidth became interested in painting and began classes at the College of Marin. Her first exhibitions were at the College of Marin and the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art where she quickly grew a base of collectors and fans allowing her to focus full time on her painting practice. The popular appeal of Smidth’s work can be found in her sophisticated, yet emotionally powerful design aesthetic.

As an immigrant from Denmark to the United States, Smidth often discusses her iconic California landscapes as a way to connect to her new homeland. Smidth’s process is one of documentation and deep contemplation. She spends hours driving the countryside, searching for inspired vistas to paint. Once she gets the shot with her camera, she returns to her studio to paint the landscape. Smidth’s interiors and still lifes are also about deep observation and reclamation of imagery. Often the contents of a room she is about to paint are moved around and positioned just so, a continual process-based search for compositional beauty in everyday life.

Smidth’s work oscillates between the artistic traditions of her two home countries - San Francisco Bay Area Figurative and Danish Still Life paintings - bestowing her work with its uncanny universal appeal. While she has shown her work broadly in the United States, and has an international following, she connects deeply with her spectators and finds true joy in the translation of her personal experience of a room or a natural landscape to the viewer. “I’m endlessly experimenting with ways to make these paintings and how to express their emotion; but I do love to invite the viewer to interpret the paintings in a way that’s most meaningful to them.” The results are radical acts of experimental empathy. A beautiful way to interpret the world.

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