John M Robinson lives and works in Worcester, UK. He holds a BA from the Falmouth College of Arts and an MA in Fine Arts at Central Saint Martins, London. In this selection of works, Robinson explores a new avenue in portraiture putting forward a wry critique of our image-saturated present. TAH met with the artist and Nathaniel Pitt from Pitt Studio in February 2019.
You paint from photographs and films taken of performances in museums. I wondered if you could say a little bit about how you understand your role in relation to these images? Are you a photographer, a curator or a bit of all?
J: All these roles feed into each other and inform each other – different limbs of the same body. Most of the time I start with an intention to paint about a political or social issue – it does transform though / changes in development to become something more personal and revealing, perhaps scenarios that I’m not even aware of. I would say that I am a painter overall- all the things I do feed the monster of the oil painting. Obviously the paintings feed back new images that I had not anticipated, so it’s always an ongoing project. Perhaps a curator of the unexpected. I want to continually surprise myself.
Are there artists, other than Vincent or Pablo, who your work is in conversation with?
J: Many, Albrecht Durer, Hieronymus Bosch…too, too many to mention.
Which pieces are you most proud of, and why?
J: I get attached sentimentally attached to some images, particularly paintings which offer a completely unexpected set of problems. They aren’t always the visually captivating ones, but the ones I am most proud of are the ones that offer a way forward. Also, paintings are a lot like children. Of course we have favourites, but we would never ever let them know.
How do you go about naming your artworks, is it an important part of the process or a quick afterthought?
J: Often the titles for paintings come years before the painting. In the case of “the guru” I had been raised in a Christian cult, and as a child I dreamed of escape from the moral structure of the church and imagined myself as part of my very own sect. As it happens I am now in a cult, but it only has one member – myself. Titles are a good way into a picture. They help to classify, too, as I work in groups of images. There is a danger of being too prescriptive with titles. I welcome confusion and misinterpretation of the images. That’s where really exciting things happen.