Jeffrey Smart

Stop 27 of 32

A labyrinth of sandstone coloured walls takes up the bottom two thirds of the painting. The lightly clouded sky matched the coat of a man standing in the centre of the maze, wearing a hat and gazing into one of the corridors.

Jeffrey Smart

Creation date: 2011

2011 Tuscany, Italy
oil on canvas
100 x 100 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased with the assistance of the Margaret Olley Art Trust and Mr Philip Bacon AM in honour of Ron Radford AM, Director of the National Gallery of Australia 2004–14 2014
100 Works for 100 Years
© The Estate of Jeffrey Smart

Music composed by Annika Moses

The prospect of wandering this blue-sky labyrinth forever is kind of dismal but also almost laughably so. I wanted to harness a goofy optimism, wobbling forward no matter the right angles that life throws at us.

Labyrinth is Jeffrey Smart’s last major painting. It brings together many of the philosophical, literary and artistic threads running through his work since his first paintings in Adelaide in the 1940s. Labyrinth was inspired by a hedged maze the artist saw on a book cover. The motif merged with his ongoing interest in geometry and metaphysics. It also draws on the philosophy of JW Dunne, an aeronautical engineer and author of An experiment with time (1927), who believed that dreams could represent the past, present and future. The central figure is a portrait of English writer HG Wells who was friends with Dunne and who foreshadowed in his science fiction writing many future developments, such as satellite television and the internet.