In Conversation: Ian Rayer Smith
Winner of the 2014 Warrington Contemporary Prize and shortlisted for the Greater Manchester Arts Prize 2016, Ian Rayer-Smith is a contemporary expressionist whose diverse, dynamic canvases have found audiences all over the world – appearing in group shows in London, San Francisco and Los Angeles this year alone. Hosted by award-winning arts journalist and editor Polly Checkland Harding, this interview uncovers how each one comes as a surprise: standing in front of a new work, Rayer-Smith never knows where it will go. Instead, he channels music, emotions, and visual references from the Renaissance through to contemporary art – deliberately colliding the preoccupations of the Old Masters with an abstract expressionist’s attention. Discover how painting led to freedom from a stifling career in business, the importance he places on spontaneity – and how art can be an inroad into self-understanding.
My artistic inspiration draws from various sources, as much from the techniques of the Old Masters as it does from our ever evolving contemporary culture. My primary aim is to create paintings which deliver a powerful emotional impact, or which exude a captivating force of energy. For me, the essence of painting lies not so much in what is represented, but rather in how it will affect the viewer. My art is an amalgamation of influences, from the Abstract Expressionists to the Renaissance, combining emotional rawness and mark-making with the timeless elements of composition, light, and movement.
My work is further shaped by contemporary culture and my own personal experiences. I infuse a classical essence into my creations while exploring new visual paths, ultimately delving into the very purpose of painting itself. My pressing urge is to use paint to explore new forms which will ultimately carry emotional weight. I try to never recreate an image. Instead, I may use it as a
reference point for moving from one painting to the next. I want my paintings pose a series of questions, rather than offering clear-cut statements or narratives. I find joy and satisfaction in this pursuit, as the process becomes a reflection of my continuous search for something that may remain elusive-an exploration without an endpoint.
Art making is a timeless form of expression predating formal spoken languages which has accompanied humanity for millennia. It transcends the boundaries of words. This enables me to communicate emotions and ideas beyond verbal articulation. There is an undeniable joy in exploring this fundamental and endless aspect of art. We all possess an innate capacity, and the need, to express ourselves visually. This creative urge remains as strong today as it was when our ancestors lived in caves. The language of painting remains a profound means of fathoming the world and sharing the depth of human experience.