Review – Alex Roberts Talk

Alex Roberts, whose work is currently on show in Gallery 3 at The Edge, is both an accomplished artist and an inspiring life drawing tutor for the Edge Arts. Her current work, as she explained in a revealing talk, is a move away from both pure abstract forms and figurative painting, aiming instead to combine the two and create layers of depth beyond the obvious and superficial.The complexity of her work is strengthened, in much of her current work, by her choice of silk as a medium on which to paint.  The silk, which is dyed prior to painting, is faintly translucent, and there is an eerie quality within the artworks, which refers back to the subjects within the paintings. We are never sure quite what is happening within these pictures, but they are captivating with their mysterious charm, creating “transient moments” of intimacy with the work.

The individual experience is something that Roberts has been aiming towards. In this current era of smartphones and selfies, we present a façade to the world which doesn’t truly express our inner being – the combination of conscious and unconscious which defines us, that Jung would call the ‘self’. The self is unique, and Roberts’ work has a quality that enables her to express her self, as well as to help the viewer begin to find their own.

As well as talking about her work, Roberts spoke at length about the way in which work is presented. It was clear from images she showed that the gallery space has immeasurable impact on the atmosphere of the work. One painting, Oil, 2015, on show in The Edge was presented to us in various settings. On display in a former crypt, in the “graveyard spot”, the mysterious qualities of the painting were much more apparent, whilst the current setting encourages a more reflective reading.Lighting, she explained, also plays a significant role in the viewing of paintings. Lit from close up, the silk’s translucent quality becomes more apparent and the frame behind begins to become visible, becoming itself part of the art. Indeed, Roberts has used the supporting frames to help define the work: in the process of dying the silk, if pressed hard, the shape of the frame is mimicked in the dye. The rectilinear forms, more abstract than the paint applied above, give definition and structure to the subdued palettes and more organic subjects.

Roberts hosted a talk and discussion as focused as her work is complex. She has an ability to explain and explore her work in a way that leaves the listener with both answers and questions: we discovered the internal processes that led her to develop these paintings and uncovered layers of depth within them, but viewing the works afterwards we are left to question our selves. To what extent do we reveal our ‘self’ – are we, like Roberts, trying to express the inner being, or is it a façade that we present to the world?

Alex Hewitson, Dept. Architecture and Civil Engineering

Alex Roberts’ exhibition, Choices, is on display until 20th January at The Edge

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