Imagine your favourite song transformed into paint on canvas. Robert Dunt does just that, spending long days in the studio painting meticulous and expansive colourfield canvases that act as a visual metaphor for the deeply layered nature of the music that inspires him. Visually striking and conceptually deep, Robert's works are a contemporary take on abstract expressionism. Take a look around his studio, and discover his devotion to distortion.
Tell us about your art
I am influenced by colour and inspired by music. I’m influenced by works that explore colour, such as the paintings of Patrick Heron. My intention is not just to recreate these works, but to develop them. To do this, I began looking at ways of using colour in a more contemporary context.
I was inspired by the alternative rock band The Jesus and Mary Chain, who wrote "pretty" Beach Boys style pop songs but then covered them with noise, distortion and feedback. In a similar fashion, I began painting "pretty" Patrick Heron style paintings before covering them with black and white "Distortion Forms" as a visual metaphor for this audio distortion. The resulting paintings relate to the act of seeing with the freneticism of some sections referencing visual experiences, like looking at branches of trees as they shake in the wind. My aim is to give the viewer greater visual pleasure and to highlight the colours they see in the world.
When did you decide to pursue art full time?
I have always sought out creativity. I thought that being a barrister would give me a more creative experience in the legal world, but it wasn’t enough. Then I moved to journalism, and while it was better, there still wasn’t enough of a chance to really use one’s imagination.
One day later when I had an extra day’s holiday while my wife went back to work, I bought a canvas and some paints, and from the second I put the first large slab of colour on the canvas I knew that was what I was going to do.
What does being creative mean to you?
Everything. There was a tutor at City & Guilds of London Art School that used to say being creative was an innate human trait, and I agree - it just often ends up hidden or pushed down.
What has been the greatest impact on you as an artist to date?
Realising that I wanted to make artworks that were driven by what I would like to see if I went to a gallery. Alongside this, the teachings of Andrew Grassie (an artist with the Maureen Paley gallery), who really taught me how to paint more professionally and technically.
Going to exhibitions - especially a Patrick Heron show at the Tate years ago, a David Hockney one in Paris with those great colourful landscapes, and Sigmar Polke at Tate Modern - is a constant source of inspiration.
Give us a quick one liner about your studio space
I can see the trees in the park through the window.
Where do you seek inspiration?
Galleries and art books. I am always finding new colour combinations to try, and new ways to think about making 3D space on a 2D surface.
Where’s your favourite place to travel to and why?
St Ives - because of artists like Patrick Heron and Barbara Hepworth. And Mexico because it’s incredibly fun and relaxing but also culturally fascinating.
Best advice you’ve ever been given as an artist?
Probably Andrew Grassie telling me to paint the edges of some hard edged paintings more tightly. It made me realise that the work doesn’t really have to end up being tight, but you need to know what atmosphere you are trying to create and stick to that. Essentially you need to make your paintings as professionally as you possibly can.
What’s playing in your studio right now?
The Jesus and Mary Chain’s new album - Damage and Joy.
Favourite inspirational quote?
In a Scottish accent: “we don't have to use guitars, we could use clarinets. I can hardly play the guitar and I can’t bear that stuff like Eric Clapton where it’s all about learning to play the guitar. For me it’s all about the imagination” - The Jesus and Mary Chain.