Peter James Smith was born in Paparoa in 1954, and currently lives and works in Melbourne, Australia. He is widely published as a mathematician and holds the degrees BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD with a Master of Fine Art in painting. He has held more than fifty solo shows and has work in both private and public collections in Australia, New Zealand and internationally. He recently retired from the dual roles of Professor of Mathematics and Art, and Head of the School of Creative Media at RMIT University, to paint and write full time.

Smith's wide interests in science, culture and history coalesce into his distinctive landscape paintings and assemblages, scrawled with poetry, truncated notes, jottings and scientific diagrams. What is arresting about his landscapes in particular is his ability to marry his Romantic style of painting - historically a reaction against the scientific rationalization of nature - with scientific vernacular itself, to create what TJ McNamara praises as "an outstanding personal style and achievement".

Keith Stewart elaborates, "Smith paints with an enviable fluency in two abstract languages - mathematics and art - each carefully presented to perform a specific role in his Socratic argument. Both languages strive for elegance, but we are used to seeing them apart, so he uses vernacular painting to seduce. Then through his arcane scientific medium he delivers a sudden virtuosity of spirit."

- Keith Stewart, 'Life Science', Listener, 2 August 1997



26 September - 14 October 2017

Smith’s paintings discuss the part imagery and objects play in the development of memory and the recall of history. They acknowledge aspiration for progress brought forth by scientific invention and investigation - while allowing room for the viewer's response.


8 September - 3 October 2015

The Line of Sight works echo Peter James Smith's wide interest in science, culture and history. They include representational landscapes and black paintings carrying texts from the geographic ends of Earth as an historical, scientific and cultural thread that entwines these geographies.

On measuring the ocean

6 - 30 November 2013

In December 2012, Peter James Smith, artist, mathematician and writer, boarded The Spirit of Enderby on an expedition to the wild deserted impasse of the Southern Ocean. 1000 km south to Macquarie Island then through the sub-Antarctic waters to New Zealand's Campbell Island and the Auckland Island group. This exhibition is Smith's record of a trip into that impasse, and of history, bravely fought, fiercely loved.

on the nature of things

29 May 2012 - 16 June 2012

On the nature of things is a meditation on topics as far-reaching as literature from Lucretius to Coleridge, endeavours of persons including pottery manufacturer Josiah Wedgewood and the astronomer William Wales, to Smith's experiences at Scott Base in 2010; presenting individual works that ruminate on these intersections with a lyrical grace and poignancy.

Catchlight, 2017. Oil and mixed media on linen 910 x 1100mm $12,000


Under the Southern Cross: James Cook in the Acheron Passage, 5 - 11 May 1773, 2007. Oil on canvas. 260 x 1220mm


The Curvature of the Wind, 2015. Oil on linen (framed), 820 x 1070mm


Heart (Stirling Falls), 2015. Oil on linen (framed). 730 x 600mm


Tears for Ophelia at Milford Sound, 2009. Oil on linen, 1220 x 915 mm.


Erebus Diaries, 2015. Oil on linen, 610 x 1375mm


Huka Falls and The Legend Of The Takitimu Canoe, 2017. Oil and paper on linen 600 x 1800mm $8,500


Forever Distant, 2013. Oil on board. 610 x 1210mm


Strands of Empire, 2013. Oil on linen. 1120 x 1680 mm.


Our Lady of the Heather, 2015. Oil on linen, 570 x 780 mm


Tides on the Kaipara, 2015. Oil on linen. 840 x 1130 mm


Seeing Forever, 2013. Oil on linen. 610 x 1680 mm