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Stones of the sky

In Robin Richmond’s new show the focus is directly on a moment of abstract contemplation. Corinna Lotz reports.

Robin Richmond
Giudecca from the Zattere, Venice (Night) Oil & acrylic on canvas 41x51cm

In 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 of history.

Robin Richmond
Waves - after Munch (Oslofjord, Norway) Oil & acrylic on canvas 76x82cm

In this process, Robin Richmond exercises her combination of direct observation and visual memory to great effect. She succeeds in fixing that unique moment – a wintry sunrise, windswept grasses in a fiery field, the crash of a wave, a moonlit lagoon.

This is why these recent works are so intriguing and gratifying. Often they radiate a calm beauty, as in Before the Snow (France). Two watercolours,  Heart of Sky – Water and From the Crevice to the Road (France),  capture the subtle effects of light as an evanescent layering of smoky whites, aquas, greys and pinks.

Robin Richmond
Blazing Field (England) Oil & acrylic on canvas 91x122cm

Sometimes, as in Looking for Light (Gernika, Spain), you move from the surface texture to come up against a wall and simply enjoy the play of violets, reds, blues and greys on the surface. In others, like Endless Earthen Sky II (France), the dampness of dark soil and hint of water, touches of russet and oxblood, the suggestion of shrubs and stalks pulls you down into the earth.

Stones of the Sky, named after a poem by her beloved Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, mines the vein of landscape abstraction more deeply. The compositions of these paintings are usually simple. Sky above; land or sea below. Or rather, our eyes and mind interpret the subtly modulated colours, textures and planes as landscapes and seascapes, helped along by the titles, often drawn from Neruda’s poem cycle.

5 March 2010

Stones of the Sky by Robin Richmond is at the Curwen and New Academy Gallery, 34 Windmill Street, London W1T 2JR until March 27. There is a talk by the artist on Thursday 18 March at 7pm. There is also an installation of her works under the title Between the Real and the Ideal from March 10 in the School of Social Sciences at City University, St John Street, EC1V OHB.

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