The Oil Paintings of Vicki Smith

All of the artwork featured in volume 10 is the work of Canadian oil painter Vicki Smith.

Vicki Smith is a Canadian painter known for her paintings of female figures that explore the possibilities and limitations of gravity.  Often shown suspended in rippling water, twisted and upside-down, falling into and out of the picture plane, these figures are so precariously placed upon the canvas that they threaten to slip away or dissolve. Though rarely grounded, they are always balanced. For more information, visit her website,, or her Instagram @vickismithstudio. Her upcoming exhibition at the Bau-xi Gallery Toronto runs September 12-26.

Liberty (2018)

Vision (48 x 60″ oil on canvas, 2019)

Catching Light (36 x 48″ oil on canvas, 2018)

Dreaming (11 x 14″ oil on canvas, 2014)

Peace of Mind (36 x 48 oil on canvas, 2017)

Border Crossing: We were especially drawn to your work because of the way you use color to evoke the movement of water, sometimes inviting shapes that move away from the figures but are part of them. Could you talk about how you intend this immersion and interplay to affect the viewer’s experience with the subject matter?

Vicki Smith: Water is a very visceral experience. Gazing at water can stimulate a sensual memory. I hope that the abstract movement of the water around the body will create a space for the viewer to bring their own remembered experience. Art performs the therapeutic task of holding space. Just like water, art will reflect back to us whatever emotions and experiences we arrive with.

BC: We notice that your website is called “The Art of Stillness,” but so much of your work seems to illustrate movement. Could you speak to what you mean by stillness and how you try to capture it in your paintings?

VS: Peace. The swimmers are a meditation. An invitation to peace. A space to enter into and leave the busyness of the day behind. As the body stills so too does the mind, surrendering to the real-time flow of moment to moment. I think that initially the viewer relates to the remembered experience of swimming, but I hope that ultimately it’s a deeper sense of peace and stillness that resonates.

BC: Could you talk about your inspiration to paint bodies–particularly so many female bodies–immersed in water in different positions and from different angles? What does your choice of subject matter mean to you and how did you come to it?

VS: Through the centuries art history has seen the female figure almost exclusively through the male gaze. I am acutely aware that as a female artist I need to explain the female figure with my own voice and create a new and honest dialogue. The female figure has been central to my work for the past 40 years. I have spent my career trying to describe an abstract concept of pure liberation with no gravity or boundaries and that expression takes the shape that is most familiar to me. I decided about 10 years ago that placing my figures in water gives them a recognizable place to exist, but I deliberately keep the figure and the landscape anonymous so that the viewer can easily enter with their own experience. These are not portraits of a particular person or place. I think of the figure as a placeholder for a remembered sensation.