Michael Smither – The Wonder Years


Media Release: February, 2006. 

City Gallery Wellington is proud to present this major survey exhibition by Michael Smither, one of New Zealand’s most important living artists. This show is his most comprehensive exhibition to date and will be a rare opportunity to experience some of the most brilliant examples of this esteemed artist’s work.

Michael Smither has followed a personal vision which has formed his own particular way of looking at life in New Zealand. The Wonder Years focuses on his time in New Plymouth, when he created many significant realist images; dealing with family relationships, issues of landscape, ecology and conservation, and the persistence of faith.

For Michael Smither art is much like a map directed towards the people he knows. His art shows where he has lived and how he feels about it. He wants to celebrate the journeys from childhood to adulthood in his New Plymouth paintings of his family. He cites his longtime commitment to ecology and the sea, to each specific landscape’s own unique climate inside an emotional authenticity. Looking at Smither’s paintings of the 1960s and 1970s one can comprehend the relevance of his 1975 remark: ‘You can’t just be a painter. I’m intensely interested in what human beings are. They are an incredible phenomena.’

Smither notes: ‘… none of the paintings I made were pretty paintings, they were uncompromising things and I think … they were good paintings and they were really accurate in lots of ways – before women’s lib got off the ground in New Zealand they were paintings for women’s libbers because they were about the tensions that exist between mothers and children – the difficulty of being a mother and a child. I always saw that aspect of it rather than the pretty child lying down on the rug, the way that everybody liked to see the child.’

This major exhibition of Michael Smither’s work comes to Wellington for the New Zealand International Arts Festival following a successful season at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Principal Sponsor Ernst & Young has once again partnered with City Gallery Wellington to continue to bring the best in contemporary New Zealand art to Wellington.

City Gallery Wellington Director, Paula Savage says, ‘City Gallery Wellington is delighted to be exhibiting the work of Michael Smither for Wellington audiences. Michael Smither is one of the most significant and much loved New Zealand artists of our time. His works depict humble domestic settings and landscapes we are all so familiar with, but Smither teases from these subjects moving and elucidating truths. There is no doubt that this will be one of the most rewarding exhibitions of 2006 that audiences will love.’

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue and DVD of the artist, which will include a recording of Smither’s composition 21 Piano Pieces, performed by one of New Zealand’s leading pianists David Guerin.

Also showing at City Gallery Wellington during the New Zealand International Arts Festival:

Patricia Piccinini – In Another Life

19 February – 11 June 2006

Raewyn Atkinson – Designs on Antarctica

3 February – 12 March 2006, in the Michael Hirschfeld Gallery

Entry to all three exhibitions is free



Michael Smither was born in New Plymouth in 1939. He studied at the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland in 1958, before moving back to New Plymouth in 1959. Smither’s first solo exhibition was held in 1961. Since then he has exhibited widely around New Zealand. The first major solo exhibition of Smither’s work, ‘Michael Smither—an introduction’, was curated by Jim and Mary Barr as a touring exhibition for the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth in 1984. Smither currently lives and works in the Coromandel, on Otama beach.

In 2004 Michael Smither was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to the arts. Most recently, Ron Sang’s substantial publication Michael Smither Painter was nominated for this year’s Montana Book Award.


Principal Sponsor: Ernst & Young

An Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki touring exhibition.