At first glance, the pairing of Bea Maddock and Jeffrey Smart is not an obvious union. Their techniques and practice appear to be divergent, Smart known for a hyper-realism that verges on surrealism; Bea Maddock for her painterly approach that has its roots in 20th century European Expressionism. However, the premise of this display, which is entirely drawn from the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, is to tease out the ideological and aesthetical parallels in the practice of these two great Australian artists.
Both were deeply influenced by the European landscape and figurative traditions, Smart attending The Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris in the late 1940s; Maddock attending the Slade School in London during the 1960s. Through their respective travels in Italy, the Italian landscape has also played a role in their iconography as has the place of memory in the construction of their compositions.
Above all else, a persistent interest and exploration of the human experience of being solitary and alone in the world prevails in their work. While it is as much about landscape as it is figurative, their people are usually nameless or characterless. Maddock makes her portraits about the head and the mind and not the face and Smart often paints his people obscured from view and his portraits often appear in the far distance, a small part of the overarching scheme of the work. The result is work that is enigmatic and nuanced, about philosophy and ideas and not just the temporal scene before us.