Was he the first to paint on gold? Probably not... painting on metal has a long history- but most certainly, Robert Smit is a significant Gold Painter. Colours and gestures were made precious in a new sense by him. In some ways it may seem wrong to cover over gold with mere paint- after all, there truly is a heirachy of materials- (in spite of whatever ideas of 'democracy in materials' that modernism tried to enforce. Any one who has actually made something with gold could testify!)-but when I look at a Smit piece, I think of how we actually value paint and painting very highly- its Classic Art material.
"[Smit's 1985 gold work] in the Stedelijk [museum] caused a commotion. A fierce argument arose among his fellow jewellery makers in which the central issue was the material’s connections with power and the display of wealth... In those years gold was suspect. It was associated with the established order...Finally the two protagonists, Gijs Bakker and Robert Smit, clarified the controversy about gold [in a moderated public debate].
The polemic over gold marked the end of an era, the end of the modernism which had until then strongly dominated the art world."
Now, you probably didnt know (or care) there even was any polemic over gold, or a renaissance of its use, but I must admit that I grew up with a negative view of gold- that it was somehow distasteful, garish. Others too, can relate to this- I think this must have been a modernist legacy? (that reached as far as a kid in Castlemaine in the 80's??)
Anyway, I unlearned my view of gold. Mainly by ditching all the associations, and getting to know what it really is like, as stuff. One particular thing about Smit that made an impression on me as a student, was not his painting, at all,( suprisingly) but that he said he had a box of gold; scraps and pieces, and he just playfully made stuff with it, like it was paper, without fear of wasting it.
This wasnt like Scrooge McDuck rolling in his money- but a goldsmith really exploring the material.