Artist in the Spotlight: Andrew Robinson
"I like the viewer to hold his own story or vision in my paintings that could bring up an unborn concept within one’s memory".
By Daniel Lee-Jacobs | 4 min read
This week we caught up with Andrew Robinson, a Liverpool-born painter who has been creating a stir for his abstracted paintings which draw on science fiction and abstraction as a source of inspiration.
Completely unique in their appearance and subject matter, his reinvented, broken objects are intended to surprise the viewers and engage them to create their own narratives and perhaps even evoke nostalgic memories.
Your paintings aren't quite completely abstract, yet aren't figurative either. I wonder, how do you describe them when someone asks the inevitable question 'what kind of artwork do you create'?
Yes, it's true my artwork mostly uses representation as well as abstract concepts like shape and colour to bridge the gap. One of the reasons I do this, is that it allows me not to get too tied down painting the actual object. I feel this gives the viewer greater scope to allow their own vision and imagination to kick in through the ambiguity.
I would describe my work as neo-surrealistic (based on the literary and visionary aspect, rather than the psychological aspect of Freudianism) or perhaps post-futurist. However, none of these descriptions are quite to the letter, as I have bent rules on autonomy and refined the object fully, mainly to give the audience some reference point.
It is a difficult area given most things nowadays are lumped together into 'post-modern'. But without an ism I think artists in this field are waiting for a new group of isms to break down the plurality and segment things better.
Kocmoc - Oil on Canvas - 81cm x 96cm
You had a natural knack for painting even as a child but you didn't pursue painting after college, why was that?
I never pursued art after school because I came from a working class background where the only income was my dads. And so it was important to get into work.
When I finally did get a job I was working 6 days a week and so had little time to pursue my passions! They only resurfaced some 10 years later when I did pencil drawings influenced by the idea of Dali and Max Ernst. I then got a position to do weekend work which resulted in me finally fulfilling my passion.
Tell me a bit more about how your childhood love of comic books and science fiction has influenced your artwork? What books or comics was it that really grabbed your attention growing up?
When I was a child I subscribed to the WOW comic. And from this I became intrigued by the comical nature of art and the use of speech bubbles. I remember moving house and having to put them all in a huge box and take them to the skip. Worst thing I ever did.
Moving onto adult reading comics I would take a look at the Eagle with Dan Dare and Doomlord. The dynamics and photographic aspects to this and the dark subject matter was something that grabbed me.
I found literature in school very stagnant, I had no idea if there was any other kinds of books. I remember a friend had a copy of Lord of the rings. The sheer size of it was enough to put me off. So my first book after school was Clive Barker's Weaveworld and Giger's Necronomicon. I loved how Barker created worlds within worlds and these weird and wonderful characters.
After finishing school Sci Fi had become this huge phenomenon after the release of films like Alien, Aliens and Bladerunner. This just increased my whole interest in fantasy and escapism and I think this influence is just as strong today.
I have recently delved into Mobeius's World of Edena and The Incal with Jodorowsky and the animations of Rene Laloux and artwork of Roland Topor. Of course it's a form of escapism, but it's not negating realism, but rather finding solace in the invention of weird characters and weird concoctions that are not always practical. This is really my fascination with narration.
BBEPX - Oil on canvas - 60cm x 60cm
You talk about growing up in an era when 'objects' were important, whereas now a lot of our lives are governed by the 'digital' - talk us through why that is an inspiration for your work.
I remember when I did my Masters in Edinburgh and I was asked what is art without the object and why do we need the object?
Of course, it's a really difficult question to answer. But for me, I felt a strong connection to objects. I grew up in an era when the object was everything. An object can create memories, it makes us feel good and bad. It wasn't until the mid-80's that the concept of something digital really came about. And that was such a difficult concept to understand.
Digital isn't something tangible - something we can touch or feel. Whereas where would the world be without objects? It is so overbearing to even digest.
So when I paint, I feel comfortable painting 'objects'. But I try to show how they are becoming altered or morphed by the fantasy, the science fiction and in some ways the digital world. They are almost a bit Frankenstein.
Hello Mr Foster - Oil on Canvas - 70cm x 50cm
You say that creating a reaction in the viewer is important, and spurring them on to create their own narrative. How much do you try to shape that vision? Is there a particular story that you're trying to tell with your paintings?
At times I have a story. But it is transformed into a more abstract form, devoid of politics or pop culture, and so cements itself into the world of the Grimm's (fairytales). I guess this goes back to my academic studies of equating representation with rhetoric. In my paintings there may be forms and characters, but there is no 'good or evil'.
I remember making a painting that I wrote, 'make it so.' It is what the audience determines it should be. For me the abstract form has the capacity to be open and personal to the viewer. I try never to go too far into the realm of realist.
In the News Today - Oil on Canvas - 94cm x 131cm
What might we expect from you in the future? Is there ideas you'd like to explore or places you see your work going?
I have always been intrigued by glass and perspex and the concept of scale used by some of the artists who really inspire me ( e.g. Franz Ackermann and Cecily Brown).
So maybe I'll try and explore my ideas through those mediums and on a much bigger scale. But I also feel the need to inject more energy into my work. I want it to be looser and more visceral. Cecily Brown does it so well, albeit figuratively.
And while you might see abstract objects in my work, ultimately I still have a fascination for the human condition I cannot shake. Caravaggio is certainly an influence and in a way Alan Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, so this aspect or obsession may become more prominent in the future, we'll just have to see!