Selected critical comment
Spaces of Memory and
Robin Richmond Landscape
Painting at the Curwen Gallery
Robin Richmond has been described as ‘one of the finest painters working in Britain today’, and we can see why. Her evocative studies are produced in the natural environment, and seek to document the sense of place rather than making a literal translation..... . READ MORE
The title of Robin Richmond’s new exhibition, On Solitary Fields, is taken from Emily Dickinson’s memorable poem A Light Exists in Spring. The parallels are absorbing; Dickinson’s poetry and Richmond’s art both place a translucent film over the world, balancing the definitive with the abstract. Here, Richmond’s works represent specific locations, but ask us to contemplate them fluidly through a dream-like lens of color and imagination, as a sense of place rather than a literal translation of the French, Sicilian and Italian landscapes that inspired her. Born in Philadelphia, Richmond has been a fellow and Artist in Residence at Yale University since 2003 and now lives and works in London and South-West France
The American Magazine, March 2014
Inspired by landscapes in France and Italy, Robin Richmond's finished works evoke a sense of the places she loves rather than a clearly recognisable view of a particular site.
It is worth seeing the works in the original (as here) as they lose something in reproduction. This is mainly because Richmond works on the canvases not only in acrylic paint but also uses materials including lava sand and modelling paste to capture the textures of the landscape. She inscribes forms such as tree trunks, and in one case even a ladder, into the paste before it sets, making her works almost like relief sculptures. Once it has set, she uses up to 20 layers of paint to cover the paste.
Many of the works are prompted by views across the water with movement and reflections. The artist is particularly taken with capturing the changes in light, colour and weather conditions she observes at Lake Rouffiac in south-west France, where she has a home and studio.
One of her paintings of a lake is a symphony of autumn reds and purples. In the winter paintings, the canvas is dominated by cool blues, a thick band of white making up the horizon.
The artist -- born into a Jewish Philadelphia family who moved to Rome -- admits that one painting is an imaginary landscape. After seeing a production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, she became interested in the landscapes of Russia, where her ancestors lived. Rather than making the trip, she instead used archival material to create Chekhov's Dream, a landscape showing a row of trees at what appears to be dusk. Another work, Marble Quarry, Carrara, Italy, was inspired by the view from an aeroplane of the marble quarries from where Michelangelo got his stone. The canvas is heavily layered in shades of brown, blue and purple with a violent white slash of paint running through the middle. Richmond explains that it can be seen either as an aerial view or a close-up of the veins running through a piece of stone. "It is a really good metaphor for the way I work".
Julia Weiner, The Jewish Chronicle, 7 March 2014.
Robin Richmond transcribes landscape and stirs emotion, confidently evoking that intangible sense of infinity, known as the Romantic Sublime. A fiery heat glows in renderings of ancient Sicilian places like Agrigento. In others like Chekhov's Dream and Ice Sings - the diaphanous textures of Lake Rouffiac in January -- blues, whites, violets, mauves and jades float and freeze. Warmth and cold enhance one another in Solitary Fields.
These canvases encourage the eye and the mind to negotiate distance, depth, reflection and even time, exploring the very borderlines and edges of perception. The notion of an 'event horizon', a boundary in space-time where new forces come into play, springs to mind. Time haunts her History of a Sliver Birch Tree in Six Chapters. Weathered bark becomes almost like human skin, a metaphor for deep time. Her ninth and biggest show so far at Curwen & New Academy reveals a heightened power and concentration.
Corinna Lotz, Galleries March 2014
The Still Point of the Turning
show, her first outing for nearly two years, and, at 50-plus works in the
gallery, certainly her largest ever,
Robin Richmond has surely found herself a secure space within the upper
echelons of the present incarnation of British landscape painting. It isn’t
as if she was never there: as the catalogue to this exhibition attests, she
has been a serious presence since the 1990s, but there have been a few
issues to contend with along the way, of which the most important has been a
recent switch to acrylic from oil as her medium of choice: Richmond is as
highly proficient a watercolourist and illustrator as she is a painter on
canvas. The outcome of this has been a gradual freeing-up of her expressive
style over the last eighteen months, and, by extension, an increase within
her oeuvre of large paintings on canvas or board. Always intensely
self-critical, Richmond has now come to enjoy what she sees as the
‘permissive’-ness of acrylics, and her new-found ability to increase her
technical flexibility: oils had begun both to impede her need to experiment,
and to switch from figuration to abstraction and back, interrelated factors
in her work that she describes as being “…like a tightrope walk”. Blondin,
indeed: all the paintings in this exhibition come from Richmond’s recent
travels in Europe and South America, and their different subjects wholly
support her technical repositioning.
Julian Freeman, The British Art Journal (in press, March 2012)
In her eighth one-woman show at Curwen and New Academy Gallery, American artist Robin Richmond (who lives and works in London and South-West France) goes 'back to the future' into traditional easel painting. She uses skills that most young artists are completely unfamiliar with like glazing and layering, but she has not, perhaps, gone too far into the traditional. Her paintings may not be figurative, but her landscapes strongly evoke a sense of place. Richmond thinks of herself as a 'painter of Light' - in the tradition of Turner as much as Rothko and the Abstract Expressionists with whom she feels a great affinity. She says her paintings are "more an evocation of a feeling; a kind of emotional weather map where physical and mental space collide", where the "world is at our feet as fragile as our clay."
Michael Burland, The American, February 2012
Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times, Life and Arts, p.17, March 17/18 2012
Focus: Robin Richmond
Estelle Lovatt, The American, March 2012
of fire and water, sky and earth are the very stuff of Robin Richmond's
rendering of land, mountains and sea. The focus on the elemental nature of
the subjects is stronger than ever as her evocation of atmosphere works its
magic and often achieves an elegiac effect.
Corinna Lotz, Galleries, March 2012
Stones of the Sky
The title comes from Pablo Neruda’s “Las Piedras del Cielo”, whose lines – “uninhabited poems, stretched between sky and autumn/ without people” – marvellously describe Robin Richmond’s lyrical semi-abstract empty landscapes. Richmond has always stepped the tightrope between abstraction and figuration; her recent work has new gravitas and accomplished, confident simplification. Leathery, dense surfaces are built up, erased, rebuilt; horizontal bands of resonant colour are pierced with light whose variations demonstrate intense painterly responses to place and time: watery reflections in “Guidecca from the Zattere (Night)”, muted purple twilight in “Solent (England)”, light penetrating heavy skies – “Waves”, “Glimpse of Sun” – in an acrid yellow/ turquoise Oslo cycle, a homage to Munch.
Jackie Wullschlager. Financial Times, Life and Arts, p.19. March 2010
Arguably Robin Richmond’s most single-minded exhibition, Stones of the Sky draws on her enormous expertise as a painter of nature, to show her at her most elemental. Richmond’s influences will speak fro themselves, but forget that: this collection is a tour de force, in which the sights and scents of existence, the real essences, atmosphere, the seasons and many other areas of sensory perception have their collars felt, in splendidly evanescent visions of land and water. Richmond’s habitual attentiveness to tone and palette is prominent, to magical effect.
Julian Freeman, Galleries, March 2010
American artist Robin Richmond's landscapes explore Pablo Neruda's poems Las Piedras del Cielo (Stones of the Sky). "...stretched between sky and autumn, without people...for a moment I want no one in my poetry..." Robin explains, "Many of the titles of my paintings are drawn from these word landscapes." Richmond is particularly powerful, painting space and atmosphere through a meditative sense of drama and calm sensuality. Underneath oil and acrylic glazes, marks and shapes read as breathtaking landscapes towards Rothko's depth of colour, light and texture, with the St. Ives artists' blending of figurative landscape with abstraction.
Estelle Lovatt, The American, March 2010
three-dimensional reality, the canvas is just that – a piece of cloth
stretched over wooden supports with a bit of colour on the front. But in the
moment of contemplation, the sensations received by our eye and brain come
together to make an “ideal” space, something the artist and we have made
together, through the exercise of our senses, our conscious and unconscious
thought. We make a journey from the real to the ideal and back to the real,
without even being aware of it, as we do so often in ordinary life. The joy,
indeed the magic of art, is that we are gently taken along this road again
and again, discovering new excitement and pleasure along the way. The
richness of this experience is enhanced because we have before us both the
present and the past, ourselves and the other of ourselves – the artist’s
own sensation and knowledge, amplified and given resonance by the movement
Corinna Lotz, A World to Win, March 2010
The borderline between figuration and abstraction has fascinated artists and those who look at what they do since the beginning of creative activity. The figure and its ground can be viewed as the mental paths by which we explore and appreciate the diverse nature of the world around us. The eye and the mind are exercised by such journeys from the facts of sensation to the realm of knowledge and memory - and outwards again to the living movement of nature. Whether a mark, a shape or a brushstroke defines something particular may depend on where we are located, the mood we are in, what we have experienced, How do marks shape things? How do we interpret them? When does a mark start to form a recognisable, readable landscape? These questions, and others are posed by Robin Richmond's 'Landscape Mysteries' at Curwen & New Academy (to 23 February).
Richmond describes her own movement between figuration and abstraction as "teetering on the edge". Since her last London show she has lost the fear of falling off as she unexpectedly found the confidence to kick away the props of narrative and venture forth while experimenting with acrylics and oil glazes. The Weight of Light, Shallows and The Sky for a Roof, The Earth for a Bed, are empty of specifics and yet they arouse a strong sense of place. Transitions between the elements - earth, fire, ocean and mist - are suggested by texture, "mixing memory with desire" to use T.S.Eliot's words. There is a debt to Mark Rothko's feathery colour bleeds, simple forms and sombre symmetries but the are all transformed by the use of oil glazes, sand, clay and encaustic, the ecstatic evocation of sea-swells and sprays, watery moors and mists opening up a quite new territory.
Robin Richmond by Corinna Lotz. Galleries, February 2008, p.11.
"Landscape Mysteries will be Robin Richmond’s 24th one woman show and her 6th with Curwen and New Academy Gallery. The inspiration for these new paintings is strongly rooted in landscape and yet demonstrates a distinct loosening in her imagery and formal handling of the paint since previous works. A rich depth of colour, light and texture within the work creates a powerful and atmospheric sense of space, within which the viewer can find their own meaning. Richmond says “A seam in the painting might be a horizon or just a beautiful, fizzing line.” She notes that there has been a technical and emotional change in the paintings and that “The paintings are less about telling the viewer a story - my story - than loosening the narrative shackles and letting you, the viewer, free inside the space I have made.”
In the early part of her international career Robin Richmond was a noted portraitist and her paintings focussed on the scrutiny of the “real”, celebrating the observed; whether in human, animal or landscape form. The figurative element was central and highly emphasised, with a strong narrative. Gradually, over the last 20 years, a gradual shift in focus and emphasis has been palpable in the paintings with a less constrained handling of her main subject - a study of Nature in all her glorious manifestations; meteorological, archaeological, geological, and historical. Richmond’s work has long teetered on the edge of abstraction and transcription, gaining power from this very rich internal tension, and giving free reign to her celebration of colour and texture, but this show marks an important shift in mood.
"Like the St Ives artists (with whom she is often compared), Richmond finds her response to painting extremely sensory. "There is something about the surface of a painting that I can either warm to or feel nauseated by." Richmond encouraged me to feel her pictures, allowing my fingers to trace the paths where colours mingle and separate and the gummy edges of different glazes stew together. Richmond says the best painting is the most direct. "Good pictures narrate, at their heart, a fundamental contrast, such as light versus dark, or cool versus warm. For me the contrast is between rough and smooth." The key ingredient to Richmond's tactile surfaces is paper. "It counteracts that slightly unctuous quality to oils and gives the picture texture and sensuality....most of the paper I make myself".
Featured Interview Spirit
of Place with Will Barrett, Artists
“Observe the layered combinations of pensiveness, intuition and calm observation in Robin Richmond’s paintings of the Dordogne. The weather will have an impact on anything, and especially the eye-to-brain-to-hand appearance or mood of a painting, whether it’s a representation of a given place, or an artwork in a specific setting, or any image of the world observed and taken from a machine in flight. More important, ideas like this go a long way to establish individual and collective meanings of the terms such as ‘the British landscape’….. Intuitive spiritual imagery and energy can rack up in abstract work, as gestural brushwork with clear signs and signifiers, like those of Alan Davie: or of mixed media mark-making, as in some of Lanyon’s constructions, or in a younger generation of artists such as Hughie O’ Donohue, Kjell Torriset or Robin Richmond: three very different artists capable of major physical or intellectual relocation, plus the ability to allow the most elusive of spiritual and spatial possibilities to gain or decline with meaning within their respective works. Interestingly, all use art history, and the art of the past, to seek new and unrelated responses to the present. All have recent work that reflects ideas and sensations that are both abstract and concrete; Richmond’s canvases These Are the Rules are remarkable examples of challenging paintings that ask as much about text and meanings in spiritual terms as they deliver.”
Julian Freeman British Art, Southbank Publishing 2006
“remarkable (pictures) by a dramatic painter with a powerful story to tell.”
Kate Kellaway The Observer 2006
“Robin’s art has made the difficult leap out from the interior landscape, and her work succeeds in expressing the exterior representation of the internal, mental state.”
Sophie Van Thong, Art à Londres October 2005
“ … the experience (is) that of entering a gloomily lit church to discover a luminous fresco lurking in a corner chapel…. And gives the viewer the magical feeling of making a fleeting, momentary discovery… the biggest find …seems to be the sensibility she picked up from her decades in England. Her spatial and chromatic ambiguities are redolent of the St. Ives artists and their romantic fusion of landscape and abstraction.”
David Cohen, The New York Sun, 2004
“Given the range and diversity of the works in this show, Richmond is pleased the gallery is showing (the paintings of Mexico, Italy and France) all together. Given the range and diversity of the artist, they could do no less.”
Laura Gascoigne, Galleries, 2002
“These are complex works and while the landscapes confirm Richmond’s powers as a colourist they also reveal other concerns…. The large Mexican watercolour “Burnished Day” is the undoubted pièce de resistance. As if through stained glass, colour and structure combine to present a glowing patchwork of mountain and valley, cave and tree, ovoid and triangle. Overall is the sense of affirmation of life’s rich pattern, past, present and continuing.”
“The whole puts me in mind both of quattrocento vistas and of cubist preoccupations with time. This seems to prefigure an extremely interesting area, so that already while enjoying the present show one looks forward to the next.”
“Deeply affirmative, almost metaphysical impact. This self-possession is transfigured into an awesome monumental presence.”
"The artist seems to me to have exploited the potential of her stratified landscapes to the full... Just as the title The Sheep from the Goats carries Biblical overtones of timelessness, so too does the painting. Curiously, close up the curving bodies (with wonderfully mutating tones) seem at peace, utterly secure. Yet from a distance this self possession is transfigured into an awesome monumental presence."
Jane Norrie Art Review 1987/1989/1992
“Robin Richmond’s portraits penetrate the clichés of toughness to lay bare the pain and fear of the sensitive modern male. Men who have seen these paintings…. have been moved by the compassion.”
Caroline Tisdall, The Guardian 1980
Michelangelo and the Creation of the Sistine Chapel, Random House 1992
“This book is much more important than its unpretentious text might suggest. Recommended.”
Graham Hughes, Art Review 1992
“Lovers of art will welcome this superb analysis of one of the world’s great masterpieces.”
The Arts 1992
“I congratulate you. I am humbled by the magnitude of the task.”
Sir Ernst Gombrich in a personal letter, 1992
“Subtly blends information with a light conversational tone.”
The Good Book Guide
Magic Flute , Faber 1990,
“The magical atmosphere is superbly captured in these unique paintings.”
Pick of the Best Children’s Books 1990
“A wondrous slim volume that deserves a place in every child’s library.”
Washington Times 1992
“The book is to be highly recommended for its striking design and lucid text.”
The Lady 1992
“The attractiveness of the story telling helps demystify an art world too often made holier than thou.”
Washington Times 1995
“The colorful text allows the reader to visualize the paintings even with their eyes closed.”
Children’s Bookwatch 1995
Blue Door, Marrakech Morocco 2006
Salon Noir (2011)
As Fragile As Our Clay (2011)
Ice Sings, Lake Rouffiac, France
Marble Quarry, Carrara, Italy
Chekhov's Dream, 2013
On Solitary Fields, Framce, 2013
Shadows Hold Their Breath,
Reflection, Lake Rouffiac, France Autumn, 2012
The Ice Puddle, France 2007
Waterland Outside Amsterdam
Storm Arriving on Lake Titicaca
Olympic Fire, 2008-11
© Robin Richmond, 2019