Paintings by Robin Richmond
A great writer once defined poetry as “emotion recollected in tranquility”. This strikes me as a fine definition of my painting. The vivid, noisy, glorious, and chaotic energy of the natural world is alchemised by memory in the crucible of the tranquil studio. This living landscape has been my subject for the last 30 years.
I am fuelled and energised by what I find beautiful and moving. It might be the way a tree stands quite alone or in a family of its own kind. It might be the way light fades over a glassy, molten sea. It might be a wild storm whipping up a troubled sky. It might be the reflection of clouds in water. Everything under the sun and moon is interesting to me. I love weather. Any weather. I love the arc of the seasons and the way they embody time and change. I cast my net over these experiences, and the paintings are the result. I find that I look for what is not touched by human intervention. There are no people in my landscapes. Perhaps I am painting Eden before the Fall . . .
I lead a peripatetic life and have done so since early childhood. Born in America, brought up in Italy, educated in England, with long-established studios in both London and in South West France, it seems that a sense of place has been my magnetic lodestone both as a person and as an artist. Every painting is born out of the experience of living and being in a particular location in a particular moment in time, like a calibration on a navigator’s sextant. They are site specific, and titles are very important to me as they tether the exact experience to the exact place. I want to share this information.
Are the paintings abstract? Are they figurative? I don't know anymore.
All I know is that they are as truthful as I know how to be about my own experience of being alive – right now, right here.
Le Chalard, Summer, 2017
I am writing a regular Art Blog which is published on my website, and also on my Facebook profile page.
I am working on paper this year. The series of paintings is called "Writ in Water" which comes from the inscription on the gravestone of John Keats in the Protestant cemetery in Rome, the city of my childhood.
A one-person show of new work Lodestone at the Piers Feetham Gallery, 6-28 October 2017
A one-person show at The Art Spaces at Cass Art London, 9-30 October
Group shows: Cadogan Contemporary London
Artist's Statement for Cadogan Contemporary:
My work is about the sensation of being outside in nature, observing the way light transforms a landscape through the arc of the seasons. There is no such thing as bad weather for me. Give me a storm over a sunny day anytime. Snow, fog, clouds, rain - all weather interests me. I think the paintings are not abstract - I find these terms reductive - but rather they are abstractions. They condense a real lived experience, caught in time in a new form and a language particular to me alone.
I make watercolour notes and sketches wherever I am - whether it be the Atacama Desert or the pond at the bottom of my field in France, but although I am a footloose traveller, paint-box permanently packed, (no doubt as a result of my peripatetic childhood) these studies are not the main feature of my work. They act as a sort of spur to memory, a visual diary, a handbook, and an archive of experience.
My paintings are never literal transcriptions, but are more like meditative evocations. They focus on the way real observation of the landscape mutates in memory. Wordsworth defined poetry as "emotion recollected in tranquility". Right now, in the relative tranquility of my London and French studios I am thinking about the way trees and skies reflect in water, but I am also fascinated by the act of reflection itself, which is the essence of what painting is about to me.
The new paintings of the Inner Hebrides, Corsica and France (see Recent Paintings) have not yet been exhibited and form the core of Robin's next exhibition. The work focuses on reflection - both in the metaphorical and literal senses. Robin is working on a series of paintings called The Water Garden.
On March 2nd, 2016, the Curwen Gallery celebrated 20 years of creative collaboration with Robin by launching a new 132 page book, Living Landscape, in conjunction with a major exhibition of her new work. The book contains a personal essay by the artist, a selection of work from the last five decades, and over 100 images of new work from 2014 to 2016. The book is now on sale, price £20, can be ordered from the artist, by visiting the gallery, or from Amazon.
" ... My exhibitions are like stories. They have always had important titles as do my paintings. There have been shows over the last - almost forty - years with titles like From the Distance, Sacred Geographies, From Bone to Stone, Vessels, Landscape Mysteries, Stones of the Sky and many more. Each show has had a strong plot. This book, Living Landscape, is a small selection of some older work chosen from these shows spanning five decades, and is a major introduction to new work from the last three years. It moves from my first tentative chiaroscuro teenaged drawings from the 1960s, through art school in the ''70s, through the decades finally to new work, hot off the easel. Collecting, collating, and working on this book has been like being on a dig. I have felt like an archeologist dusting off and annotating shards. I am aware that in the last few paragraphs I have used a literary analogy many times. I don't think this is a coincidence. I am a painter who writes. I am an art historian who makes art."
" ... My new paintings of Arizona, Utah, Corsica, France and England all contain ground mineral pigment collected from the actual landscape.... What emerges later on in the studios is a distillation of this lived experience.... In this show I have studied the effect of fog on the Venetian lagoon at many times of day and night; the clouds moving across slate on Honister Pass in the Lake District and the cliffs of Cap Corse falling headlong into the bluest of blue Mediterranean sea. The rock formations of the American SouthWest with their poetic geological locutions such as chimneys, buttes, spires, monuments, mesas and hoodoos have been major inspirations in the last two years. Hue, saturation, colour, contrast - all those magical Photoshop options - are the bedrock of my paintings."
" ... It often seems to me that it is not a matter of making the painting, but finding the painting. It is drawing out, not drawing on."
Robin Richmond, Living Landscape, 2016.
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In 2014 Robin gave a lecture on her painting at the Lateran University in Rome, entitled Shadows in Plato's Cave. She continues to review shows in London and the recent exhibitions of Late Rembrandt at the National Gallery and Late Turner at Tate Britain have been hugely important to her new work.
In March 2015 Robin's work was at the centre of a show entitled Colour at Gallery Different, London.
On Solitary Fields
A color stands abroad
Emily Dickinson, Poem 812, A Light Exists in Spring
This was Robin's biggest show ever and represented over 2 years of an intense period of work in both the French and London studios. There were over 60 paintings that range from the large to the very tiny. All the paintings are landscapes, and though initially they might be perceived by the viewer as abstract, even Impressionist, they are in fact transcriptions of real places, from temple sites in Sicily to lakes, beaches and forests in South-West France.
Cover Art: Auvézère River, France, 2014
Acrylic on Gesso Panel, 71 x 56 cm
Since her first show of figurative paintings in London in 1976, Robin Richmond's work has taken her all over the world. Her reputation as an artist is firmly established on both sides of the Atlantic with work in public and private collections.
American-born, brought up in Rome, she moved to London in 1969, where she studied at Chelsea School of Art graduating with a B.A. in Fine Art and an M.A. in Art History. Her career has combined painting, University teaching, writing and broadcasting, and she now divides her time between her studios in London and in France.
She is a Fellow of Morse College, Yale University, where she was Artist in Residence in 2004.
She is an acclaimed author, illustrator and critic, and in 2006 published her 9th book and founded The White Stork Press. Her books have been translated into 12 languages.
© Robin Richmond, 2017