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Abstract Colour-Field Painting

Colour-field painting is recognized as one of the two major components of the Abstract Expressionism [1] of the 20th century. Paintings created using colour field are typically large pieces on canvas. They traditionally have very simple features and are devoid of excessive detail. In addition to lacking detail, colour field works omit both subject matter and illusionism. Abstract colour field contrasts starkly from illusionism. Illusionism [2], also referred to as “trompe l’oeil” (French for “deceive the eye”) aims to create images that give the semblance of reality—works in this style are realistic portrayals that focus on precise characteristics and physical appearances of the subject matter. In contrast, colour-field paintings focus solely on the essentials of painting: colour and the canvas itself.


The phrase “colour-field painting” was coined in the 1950s by American art critic Clement Greenberg [3]. Greenberg was an art critic from New York who believed that colour-field painting was an important advancement for the art world. He saw great value in the capacity of this style to resurrect a significant technique of impressionist works—to refrain from using contrasts of light and dark hues.

Mitchel Smith, Abstract Colour Field Artist

Mitchel Smith, whose works will be on display at Winchester Galleries in November and December 2020, is a Canadian abstract colour-field artist based in Edmonton. Smith’s works adhere closely to the definition of colour-field painting: his paintings focus only on the essentials and omit detail and subject matter. Smith believes that the quality of the execution of the painting is of paramount importance to paintings. Large blocks of colour and texture combine to form unified minimalist works. Smith earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Alberta in 1982 and has since had works featured in many art galleries across Canada.


[1] ‘Colour-field painting’, Britannica. Retrieved 18/11/2020.

[2] ‘Illusionism’, Retrieved 18/11/2020.

[3] ‘Color field painting’, The Art Story. Retrieved 18/11/2020.

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