Robert is the latest artist to assist Art Pharmacy in the manufacture (read: create) of your much-needed art prescriptions. Sign up and we’ll send you your quarterly dosage of artworks! The treatments we prescribe for the well-being of our patients are continuously changing and always interesting. For instance, one quarter you may receive an oil painting, the next; a hand-crafted vase. Interested?
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Robert C Withers comes from a long line of New Zealand artists, with his father teaching him to paint, himself a landscape painter. After undertaking design school in Wellington and several jobs, including playing bass in 'art school punk bands’ he and his wife moved to Auckland, then to Sydney. There he spends his time both pursuing art and a design career.
His work draws from not only the New Zealand landscape tradition, but also from cubist influences, such as Edward Hopper, Colin McCahon and Jeffrey Smart. Although in the past he has used oils commonly associated with the landscape tradition, he is currently using large sheets of extremely heavy GSM watercolour paper, ink and spray paint for 2D work. his 3D work uses found materials, heavy card and all sorts of paint.
Interview With Robert
Your series for Art Pharmacy Prescriptions varies from works we’ve seen from you before. Whilst your previous works depict singular, object like buildings and skylines, this series fills the surface of the page in a centrifugal-like manner. Was this a deliberate decision?
Normally my approach would be to create smaller vignettes of local areas as each artwork exists on its own. The decision to try a different approach was based on the idea of a series - that if everyone who received these artworks got in a room together they could join them all together and make one large cityscape. So, I made one large cityscape built from an aggregation of lots of details captured in and around Marrickville/Sydenham, built on a grid that gave me enough single artworks from the larger single piece. This is the reason that each piece goes to the edge instead of being framed by the paper. They are in fact pieces of a giant cityscape jigsaw puzzle.
What was this subject matter for the APP series? Was it a specific structure, or more of an abstract observation of the landscape?
I see myself as a landscape painter, it just happens that my landscapes are light industrial areas around Marrickville, Newtown and Sydenham. There is something Hopperesque about these areas that I love, the harsh shadows created by the street lights in the afternoon and evening that turn these areas into semi abstract studies in form. They are pure functional buildings and environments with little thought to decoration or beauty.
Can you describe your art-making process for this series?
I am very traditional in my approach. I spend a lot of time drawing and photographing the environment around me and I have specific things that capture my attention. These realistic studies go into my sketchbooks and become the library I use to begin a process of stylisation. This process is the way I have worked since I was a teenager (although I only recently recognised it) - I end up with a visual language that that I use to compose imaginary street scenes that are still representational and very much portraying the environment I live in.
For the lucky prescribers receiving your artwork, how do you recommend it be displayed? Are you particular about whether it is hung portrait or landscape, framed or unframed or even about the surface it is displayed on?
I don’t have any strong feelings about how they are framed. But as they go right to the edge it might be nice to have the artworks sitting up and free in a box frame (see attached scribble).
Looking more broadly at your art-making practice, how important is colour? Have you ever been tempted to expand on your current colour palette?
My focus seems to be on form and that’s probably why I focus on black and white. I use the fluro orange to emulate a bright light in a dark or dim evening light. I do use other colours but black/white and fluro orange seem to work for me.
See more from Robert here