Tony Hiles’ fourth episode in his documentary series again observes his friend the artist at the easel.
As Smither paints or inspects his work he chats to it, casually providing straightforward and illuminating commentary on technique and intention. Here he revisits two unfinished paintings and, in an interlude, sits down at the piano to score a lament written by a friend for the Pike River miners. The first painting – bursting with the Life of the title – builds on a sketch in oils, transcribing a vividly remembered event he observed while strolling down the nearby beach at Otama. The second painting has a darker ancestry, based on a bloodthirsty legend from the Italian town of Gubbio, and features a self-portrait of the artist as an old man contemplating mortality. This haunting work remains uncompleted at film’s end. Hiles incorporates painter and painting within a modest, graceful and loving portrait of a humanist spirit, bountifully expressed.