Imagine your favourite song transfigured 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 with us and discover his devotion to distortion.
Robert, can you tell us about your art?
I'm 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.
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. Then 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 has been the greatest impact on you as an artist to date?
The teachings of Andrew Grassie (an artist with the Maureen Paley gallery), who really taught me how to paint more professionally and technically; and 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.
What's the 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.
And what's your 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.
Environmental groups around the globe are encouraging people to set 'green' New Year’s resolutions. The wellbeing of our planet is increasingly urgent, and 2018 saw an explosion of public engagement with sustainability after the release of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II - a phenomenon that has come to be known as the Blue Planet Effect.
Blue Planet II has shown how powerful visual media can be in sensitising people to environmental issues and inspiring change. Amber Countryman, Veronika Richterova and Maria Arceo are among a growing number of artists worldwide who are using Visual Art to raise awareness of the devastating effect that single-use plastic has on our oceans and ocean life.
1. Amber Countryman
One person's trash is another person's treasure, as the saying goes. Environmental artist Amber Countryman creates installation works that engage with this concept. Countryman collects plastic bottles, cans, wires, and other debris she can find on her local beaches in Central Queensland, and transforms these materials into installations that highlight the damaging effect of our throw-away culture.
Countryman’s most recent installation, entitled ‘77 Species’ was inspired by roadside memorials along highways. Each cross physically marks an area where a tragedy has occurred. ‘77 Species’ consists of 77 crosses made with discarded wood, each adorned with a piece of plastic that the artist has collected from the ocean.
Every cross represents a species affected by ocean debris. By placing an individual piece of plastic on each, Countryman highlights how much damage a single piece of plastic can inflict on ocean life.
2. Veronika Richterova
Czech artist Veronica Richterova has been working with plastic for the last 14 years. The artist creates sculptures out of up-cycled and melted plastic bottles. These works emphasise the importance of recycling waste materials.
Richterova also works directly with the public. She recently set up a pop-up stall that aims to teach children how to recycle their waste by encouraging them to make their own sculptures out of plastic bottles.
Did you know that a single plastic bottle can last for 450 years? Even after disintegrating into smaller pieces and no longer being considered a threat, a plastic bottle has never completely deteriorates. This is why recycling and finding ways of reusing plastics is so important.
3. Maria Arceo
London based Spanish artist Maria Arceo uses installation, sculpture, photography and film to expose the effect of human manipulation of the natural world. Maria has worked with Thames21 and a wide network of experts and organisations on a project to clean up plastic debris from rivers.
This project aims to confront Londoners with the sheer magnitude of plastic entering our river systems. Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic, weighing up to 269,000 tonnes, find their way into the ocean.. That’s 8-12 million metric tonnes every year. If this rate of waste continues, we will lose 75% of the world’s coral reefs by 2050.
We’ve put together a collection of works that engage with the natural environment and remind us of our responsibility to protect our fragile planet.
Going 'dry' for January is all very well and good, but what if we said you could detox with art instead? Scholars have suggested that the act of visiting an art museum or gallery can be a ritualistic experience that prompts catharsis, reflection and even revelation.
When you visit an art museum or gallery, you become instantly aware of your behaviour. You walk more slowly. You take caution with how loudly you speak. You don’t eat or drink. You’re hyper-aware of your surroundings and your impact on them.
Some of these behaviours are in line with the establishment's rules, and invigilators are around to stop you getting too close to the art or acting inappropriately. Other rules like speaking quietly are simply understood.
What impact does this set of rules, explicit and implicit, have on you and your experience of a museum or gallery? For many, this high level of awareness can be spiritually reviving, ritualistic and detoxifying.
Art Historian Carol Duncan suggests in ‘Civilising Rituals’ that a major reason for our response to these spaces is architecture. Art museums are often compared to older ceremonial monuments such as palaces or temples - and in many cases are even designed to resemble them, borrowing grand architectural forms like large columns. London’s National Gallery is a classic example (see image below).
Even contemporary museums and galleries that stray from tradition tend to sport impressive architectural features, like grand staircases, large doorways and high ceilings. Tate Modern is a great example of a modern gallery that oozes grandeur through its architecture (see image below).
Architecture prompts a particular mindset, preparing you ‘to appreciate the works of art which you would afterwards see’ (Carol Duncan). Architecture, alongside an establishment's rules, frame and guide your experience of an art museum or gallery.
According to Duncan, such framing is 'common in ritual practices everywhere’. You are placed in a zone, marked off and separated from the usual hustle and bustle of everyday life. Removed from your daily life, you are more open to a different quality of experience. Even a ritualistic experience in a secular environment. You are able to have moments of contemplation and recognition - and even revelation.
Next time you enter an art museum or gallery, consider the cues given to you to inform your behaviour and your experience, and how these make you feel. This immersive experience, so different from daily routine and space, provides relief and a detox from everyday strains and stresses.
Scandinavian artist Olafur Eliasson and geologist Minik Rosing have collaborated on an art installation placed in front of Tate Modern consisting of 24 melting blocks of ice called ‘Ice Watch’.
Meet Rise Art Prize 2018 Painting Award Winner, Emily Moore. The artist uses acrylic paint, graphite and varnish on wooden panel to create landscapes inspired by '60s purpose-built ski resorts. By playing with different textures, Emily reveals and conceals the materials and mediums involved in her practice.
Is art really good for you? The role of the arts in healthcare is an exceptionally important subject for both the field of art history and future healthcare practice.
The festive season brings with it a significant wardrobe change. Woolly Christmas jumpers appear at the office party. Or, perhaps you prefer a wintery onesie or Santa-patterned socks? Looking back through art history, it’s clear that it has always been the season to make an effort. And these characters have out-dressed us all.
London-based artist Dawn Beckles reinvigorates the classic still life style by incorporating in her works vibrant colour, contemporary settings and exotic flora inspired by her native Barbados.
Introducing Jamie Ford, our newly-appointed Managing Director of Asia Pacific.
We look at 4 key trends that will determine the future of the art market, for 2019 and beyond.