Abstract Critical

Accessing the Abstract: The Art of Iain Robertson

Written by Bill Hare

Iain Robertson Paintings 2007 – 2012 is on at 108 Fine Art, Harrogate, 9th June  - 7th July 2012

Iain Robertson, Byzantine Jazz 2008 91 x 122 cm

There are as many ways to appreciate good painting as there are people who can appreciate good painting. Furthermore for those who are truly able to appreciate good painting aesthetic quality has probably little to do with whether a picture is figurative or abstract. Yet that distinction must still make a difference in the manner-as opposed to the extent- in which a painting engages with our receptiveness to its distinctive visual qualities. Broadly speaking, figuration and abstraction reverse the strategy of their picture-making priorities. While the former tends to foreground subject content over compositional form, the latter inclines to the opposite. That being said however, in all successful art-whether figurative or abstract- the artist will seek a mutually enhancing relationship between form and content. This is particularly true of the powerfully expressive painting of Iain Robertson where the embryonic marks and the esoteric shapes, which seem to ferment below and simultaneously begin to formulate above the highly wrought surface of his paintings, are both an integral part of the painting, and also, an independent abstract form of visual communication.

Iain Robertson, Mexican Toy Box 2008 91 x 122 cm

Iain Robertson, Frari 2009 105x75 cm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being an abstract artist is it appropriate to ask, what is the subject content of Robertson’s paintings? Despite their non-mimetic appearance they are not as radically different from figurative pictures as many might think. At their heart both kinds of painting are involved with the subject of visual descriptive narrative. The crucial difference however, is that while figurative pictures always need to narrate an external subject-real or imagined- abstract ones, like those of Iain Robertson’s, chronicle their own internal process of coming into existence. Because subject-content and process-form becomes one and the same thing in abstract art does that mean that the painting of Iain Robertson is autonomous and hermetically cut off from everything outside itself? Of course not, anymore than music-that other art of the abstract – is remote and inaccessible. In fact by removing the distracting presence of figurative subject matter abstract painting- as with music- has the unmediated means to make a direct and profound impact on our sensibilities. As with those highly emotive passages which stimulate our empathic response to musical expression, Robertson’s multi-chromatic compositions and richly worked painted surfaces thrill our sensory being and make us acutely aware of our essential nature and its connectedness to the world around us.

Bill Hare