James Robinson’s Ancient exhibition is an intuitive and expressive exploration of history, culture and the nature of being. Objects buried below the painted surface protrude like the rib bones of a prehistoric creature or a fossilised moonscape.
Most painters work with brushes, others palette-knives, rollers or extrusion devices but Port Chalmers based artist James Robinson uses almost everything at hand and every technique imaginable to make his paintings.
Part painting, part sculpture Robinson’s works include materials as diverse as sand, stones, velvet, plant material, ink, broken crockery, plastic, nails, wood and coal chips. The surfaces are built up through various processes of accretion but some areas are untouched while others are punctured (revealing spaces behind) or burnt, stitched and opened up as if erupting from within. The paintings become experiences in themselves – not only is there a strong sense of the artist-as-maker in what is seen but because the surface is so varied, pitted and textural there is visual complexity and varied spatial dialogues.
James Robinson has been compared to Jean-Paul Basquiat (a New York based painter who died young and brought to international attention by the Julian Schnabel directed film Basquiat). What they have in common is the profound sense of the works being from now and of the urban contemporary environment. Although Robinson’s works are abstract in nature, there are the partial dialogues of “real things” and the varied statements of implied presences too. Usually the palette of his works is tending to monochromatic colour and therefore tight, restricted and controlled.
One of the core qualities of Robinson’s paintings is how – especially in the more figurative works – he presents the violence of information and circumstance. In these works, he uses words and phrases in amongst drawings of heads, objects and patterns that become cartoon-like in character. Robinson has now taken the viewer back to the streets of urban graffiti, into the netherworlds of identity and desire, where anger and the rawness of emotion do constant battle. The construction of the visual surface is episodic and the details become substantial parts of a greater whole and in this way the viewer discovers the painting, as it is being read and experienced.