Untitled
Waves #1

Born Melbourne, Australia 1943, lived New Zealand 1945–52


The paintings of John Firth-Smith arise from the artist’s deep engagement with coastal and marine environments. Spending his youth living in a seaside suburb in New Zealand, the ocean has become an all encompassing feature of Firth-Smith’s life in Sydney. When not indulging in his passion for sailing, he paints the ocean’s moods, movements and mutations.

During the 1960s international artists working in abstract expressionism offered a new impetus to Firth-Smith’s work. From 1968 his paintings moved further into abstraction, and he produced large colour-field inspired paintings of sea greens and blues, divided sharply by a strong, diagonal line, which subsequently altered into more rhymical wave-like arcs.

Firth-Smith, who trained at the National Art School in Sydney (1961), was included in the survey exhibitions Twenty years of Australian Painting, London (1972); the Biennale of Paris (1973); The artists of Hill End, Art Gallery of New South Wales and touring (1995); and MCA Unpacked, MCA (2001).

His work is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, all state galleries, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Artbank, and numerous regional and university galleries.