The Shed team have very kindly nominated me as artist of the week and have asked me to share some thoughts with you. It doesn’t seem very long since my previous blog (time flies when you’re enjoying yourself I guess) but here goes.
Since my last post there’s been some good news, some nearly good news and some bad news. The good news is that I had a landscape selected for a lovely exhibition called Richmond Views at Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham. One of the best parts of this was that at the opening party I met a painter whose work I’ve admired for a long time, Ken Howard RA. He was extremely sweet and talking to him really made my day.
Sunlit River 7 by Fiona G. Roberts
I also met a princess, and although I had been advised to address her as Your Highness and to curtsey, when it came to it, I got it all wrong and did neither. I became so confused by the whole process that I couldn’t concentrate on what she was saying. I think she said ‘that’s very nice’ but maybe she said ‘that’s not very nice’. I will never know. Inexplicably I also lied to her. When she asked me how long it had taken to complete my painting I said “a couple of weeks”. It actually took much longer. I have absolutely no idea why I said that, it just came out. The experience did make me wonder if lots of people, on meeting the Royals, get a bit ‘confused’ and tell lies or say weird stuff, and if they do, then the Royal Family are getting a pretty skewed and strange representation of the world around them.
It was actually slightly better than the previous event I attended where a princess was present. Affected by ‘nerves’ I had rather unwisely made an early start on the wine and, whilst looking at my painting, was suddenly struck by the strange idea that I might be an artist. The thought was too much and I sat on a bench in the middle of the room with huge tears rolling down my face. I don’t really cry much, apart from quite a bit in 2003 and a fair amount in 2010, but in that crowded room, once I’d started I couldn’t stop. Luckily, everyone was much more interested in HRH than me, so it didn’t matter really. Of course my face was a hell of a mess because my make-up had run. I didn’t have a hanky, so I had to try and wipe it off with my hands, which just spread it around. In the end, although I had my best dress on, from the neck up, I looked like I’d been rolling around in a dirty puddle. Aside from that it was a lovely day.
Reflection by Fiona G. Roberts
The nearly good news was that I had a portrait pre-selected for the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, which was really exciting, but the bad news was that it didn’t get into the final hang. That was a bit disappointing to be honest, but I have to say that now I take rejections like this in my stride. I think it’s one of the few advantages of reaching a certain age. It seems to me that when you’ve lived long enough to have been through some tough times, someone not liking your painting is, well, just that and nothing more. Moreover, I console myself with the fact that people who don’t like my paintings are just wrong. So that’s that, really, and the impulse to create is so great anyway that I couldn’t really allow opinions of my work to affect me either way. I will make work regardless of what other people think. That’s just how it is.
Portraits are an important part of my work and I try to say rather darker and more complex things with them than with my landscapes. I try to capture at least a little of the complexity and difficulties of the human condition in them. The landscapes generally are a balance and counterpoint to the darkness and they often portray idealised or magical scenes. Again, because life can be so tough sometimes, I think there is an absolute need to comfort and to provide an alternative to life’s horrors and sometimes this can be done through art. It’s not so much that I want to create beautiful things in spite of how difficult life can be, but rather I want to create magical and beautiful things because it can be so difficult. Sometimes it seems the only way to cope with the troubles we have to face is to try to focus on, and take notice of the beautiful stuff.
Autumn Sun by Fiona G. Roberts
Beauty of course, in art especially, has in recent years had a very bad press. Like humour, it is easy to see beauty as superficial. The older I get however, the less snobbish I am about beauty and the more humbled I am by it. I now see that beauty is not necessarily superficial at all. It is actually incredibly serious and vital, not least as a consolation and a balance to whatever horrors humanity is dealing with. The representation of darkness is serious and vital too of course. Picasso’s Guernica for example, brilliantly reminds us of the tragedies of war. As does the work of Nash and many others.
Artists and art can, and should, do many things: to evoke feelings good and bad, to ask and answer questions, to make us remember the past and give us hope for the future. It seems important that sometimes art should address the light side of humanity as well as the shocking, the strange and the dark. I think Tess Jaray RA summed up the work of artists so well in her introduction to the Royal Academy Summer Show that she co-ordinated. Of artists, she said:
“They remind us that the world is not merely full of problems and difficulties: that there is beauty and nature and fun and humour as well. That painting and music come from the same place, that love is a near relation, that in spite of much evidence to the contrary there is no law forbidding us to believe in the world, and to enjoy and celebrate it”.
With that in mind I’m looking forward to continuing my work on both portraits and landscapes. If you want to see some of my paintings in person, my landscape ‘Reflection’ remains on show at Orleans House Gallery until the 31st of May. I am very excited to have three new seascapes in the Shed Gallery in Barcelona. I am also currently working on some new paintings that I hope will be in Art5 Gallery in Brighton. I’d like to end by wishing everyone lots of luck in whatever work, creative or otherwise, you are involved in at the moment, and I really hope that this year is good for you all.