Art Referential: Emil Robinson

What ideas are you currently considering/ pursuing?

My work is concerned with interior space. I was raised conservative Catholic and so one of the first and most enduringly beautiful spaces for me is the inside of a church. This space is psychologically complicated as it is supposed to be a place of worship where God is accessible. A place of ritual prayer and even magic. Even though I am less religious now, the idea of space for worship is very important to me. I am trying to paint spaces that feel holy and mystical.

The paintings on display in the showcase are the result of two kinds of interior space. A simple description of a shallow room references the chapels found in early churches in Europe. I include windows into a deeper dark space in some of paintings to create questions in the viewers mind about the reality of what they are seeing. The abstract patterns that fill the paintings are done in a state not unlike automatic writing, where the shapes are almost forms- they remind me of writing words and drawing pictures at the same time- Like the alphabet of a foreign language. When these two things are combined they create tension between legible space and fanciful decoration.

Who are your favorite artists and why?

My favorite artists are Italian painters from the 13th and 14th centuries before the height of the renaissance such as Giotto and Sassetta, and the Indian painters from the 16th century through the beginning of the 19th century primarily from the Mughal Court. These artist all made richly colored and highly personal depictions of real and fantastic events. The lack of coherent linear perspective in many works produced exquisite and creative spatial compositions that are lost with the bombast of later developments. Another point of influence are the incredibly focused paintings made by Tantric Hindu artists. Of course there are many other modern and contemporary precedents, but these non traditional painters are my very favorite.

What books, blogs, magazines, etc., do you reference the most and why?

I love going into the beautiful Daap library and looking at the magazines Frieze, Artforum, Modern Painters, and Art in America to name a few-these magazines have the requisite pretty pictures for me to keep my eyes tuned, and also some thoughtful writing occasionally. The real treasures are upstairs in the shelves… If you are a student, you owe it to yourself to spend a few hours. There are just too many favorites to list. Online I love the blogs: Painters Table, Hyperallergic, and Artcritical.

Emil Robinson is a professor in DAAP’s School of Design. His works are currently on display just outside the DAAP Library.

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