Fonds UBCA-ARC-1481 - Geoffrey Smedley fonds

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Geoffrey Smedley fonds

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  • Multiple media

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Physical description

3.71 m of textual records and other material

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Canadian sculptor Geoffrey Smedley was born in London, England in 1927, and studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College in London. Although he served in the British Army (1945-48) as a member of the Royal Engineers, his training as an engineer would influence his artistic career. Early in his career, Smedley worked in the constructivist tradition and participated in two exhibitions with the Systems Group, the first organized by the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1972 and the second at The Design Activity International in 1974. His method later became intuitive, mathematical and site-specific. Subsequently, he evolved from using specific landscape sites to the use of language and also came to question the notions of light, time and memory in his sculpture. He first came to Canada as a visiting artist at Queen's University in 1977 and the following year joined the faculty of the UBC Department of Fine Arts, where he remained until his retirement in 1992. After his retirement, he continued to work at his studio on Gambier Island, B.C., where he lived with his wife, Brigid.
As a sculptor, Smedley combined disciplines such as mathematics and philosophy with accomplished craftsmanship, and his finished works often functioned as metaphors for language, time and memory. His sculptures were exhibited at more than sixty galleries in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. In addition, they can be found in various public collections, including The Arts Council of Great Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. His sculpture "Rowingbridge" was a centrepiece at Expo 86 in Vancouver. His 2001 work "Piero en tête / Meditations on Piero" (often referred to in his working notes as Piero's Head) explored the links between architecture and other disciplines, such as geometry, cosmology and human anatomy, centred on Piero della Francesca's attempts to draw the mathematically ideal proportions of the human head. Another work completed in 2012, "Descartes' Clown," is a sculpture installation that is a philosophical reflection on the mechanization of man. Shortly before his death, Smedley completed another work on Piero and his book De Prospectiva Pingendi, a book entitled Beneath Appearances.
Geoffrey Smedley died suddenly on Gambier Island on 9 May 2018.

Custodial history

Scope and content

Fonds consists primarily of the working files and other materials of Geoffrey Smedley, together with some personal records. The materials include notebooks, drawings, written notes, correspondence, photographs, biographical and professional information, exhibition catalogues and other published items, and reference materials, in both hardcopy and digital media. They are organized in the following series: Notebooks, Works, Correspondence, Professional/Biographical, House and Studio, Grants and Awards, Reference and Research, Photographs, and Digital Media.

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Immediate source of acquisition

Donated by Smedley’s children, Charlotte (Lotte) Collett Smedley and Ben Collett, in February 2019.


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Researchers are strongly advised to check with the University Archives regarding permissions to publish or otherwise use materials from this fonds.

Finding aids

Online finding aid
Please see the finding aid for an inventory of files.

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Physical description

Includes 295 oversized drawings and prints, 169 photographs, 124 CDs and DVDs, and 3 floppy disks (includes born-digital photographs and documents).

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