samantha keely smith

Collaboration with Sunn O)))

I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with the acclaimed experimental drone metal band SUNN O))) twice this year. My paintings are on the cover of their album LIFE METAL (released April 2019) and also on their upcoming late October release PYROCLASTS.

SUNN O))) - 2019 album covers: Life Metal (top) & Pyroclasts (bottom)

SUNN O))) - 2019 album covers: Life Metal (top) & Pyroclasts (bottom)

SUNN O))) are a band whose sound “invokes metaphors about landscapes carved by geologic deep time”¹ and makes “12-25 minute spans of slow-motion drone feel like a historic religious ritual.”² SUNN O))) are Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson, and they originally formed in Seattle, Washington in 1998.

Manifold, 60” x 72”, oil on canvas, 2015, Samantha Keely Smith.  (also available as a Limited Edition Print  here )

Manifold, 60” x 72”, oil on canvas, 2015, Samantha Keely Smith.

(also available as a Limited Edition Print here)

Inheritance, 60” x 72”, oil on canvas, 2018, Samantha Keely Smith.

Inheritance, 60” x 72”, oil on canvas, 2018, Samantha Keely Smith.

The combination of SUNN O)))’s immense sound and my paintings, which explore the psychological impact of the Climate Crisis and how it effects our unconscious life, is, in my opinion, a meeting of kindred spirits. I think that both the music and the paintings evoke a feeling of “the ancient Greek idea of “ekstasis” — of being outside of oneself, of being outside of time. They confront the uncanny quality of the everyday world in this moment in history — the inherent transcendental strangeness of peering into an abyss.”³ In my work I have always tried to present moments of hope alongside the turmoil and chaos – usually represented by light breaking through the darkness. This contrast is present in SUNN’s music as well. As one critic said of Life Metal – “this album is as slow, heavy and massive as anything the band has ever put out, but this time around each track radiates a warmth and majesty filtered through a prism of intense, stratosphere-scaling sound.”⁴

I often think about the necessity of being aware of the fragility of our existence in order to truly appreciate the lives we live and how that can help us make the most of the time we have. That contrast between order and chaos, darkness and light, and pain and joy is an important part of being aware and alive. I also feel it is important to listen to our inner voice and pay attention to our dreams. I have sometimes referred to my paintings as inner landscapes, as they are mostly formed in the unconscious.

Stephen kindly shared his thoughts with me about how my paintings and his music speak to one another:

“As I came to Samantha’s artwork the connection to a consciousness based direction was clear, as well as a late 19th romanticism and mid 20th abstraction. There was something in the finer fibre of such elements (that I was perceiving) in the paintings which I felt could be akin to where O))) music was taking us, or at least where it seemed to be heading, with the Life Metal & Pyroclasts albums projects. When Samantha and I eventually met this became even more compelling. We viewed the paintings in her studio and discussed her direction of some indirect visualisation of interior landscapes, which I understood to be not imaginary ones but some sort of subconscious memory and experiential, sympathetic nervous system born expression in the liminal edges of her consciousness experiences.”

here is a video preview of the LIFE METAL album paired with my paintings.

SUNN O))) - Life Metal (April 2019) - 4 paintings by Samantha Keely Smith

SUNN O))) - Life Metal (April 2019) - 4 paintings by Samantha Keely Smith

Quotes included:

1, 2 - from Pitchfork review of LIFE METAL by Grayson Haver Currin

3 - from an essay by artist Frank Webster “Apocalyptic Landscape Paintings”

4 - from NPR review of LIFE METAL by Jamie Ludwig

Aerial Intro

Aerial is a series of meditative abstract works. The paintings suggest elements of the natural world that are in constant flux and provide a centering rhythm.

I started this new body of work as a temporary escape from the maelstrom of stresses we are all facing on a daily basis at the moment. So, every once in a while, I take a step back from working on my fictional landscapes, which deal directly with one of those stressful issues: the Climate Crisis (specifically it’s psychological impact on our lives), to seek out some solace in the beauty of calmer horizons.

Commissions are available. See more here

Aerial No. 4 & No. 3 in the studio

Aerial No. 4 & No. 3 in the studio

No. 5, 30” x 32”, oil on canvas, 2019.

No. 5, 30” x 32”, oil on canvas, 2019.

No. 7, 40” x 40”, oil on canvas, 2019.

No. 7, 40” x 40”, oil on canvas, 2019.