Artist Robert Crisp studied at Guildford, Croydon and Nottingham Schools of Art in the 1960’s, graduating in stage design and painting. After working in the theatre for several years, he moved to east Devon to concentrate on painting and picture restoration. He has taught drawing and painting both privately and for Devon Adult Community Learning. In the 1980s he became more interested in the urban landscape which in turn inspired him to travel and paint city life while developing his skills as a painter in oils.
Over the years Robert has painted many cities, both home and abroad: London, Paris, Prague, and Bruges. His passion for painting Venice began with his first visit as an art student, and the strong influence has continued throughout his artistic career; his love of the architecture and canals captured him and beckoned him to return many times. Robert has amassed a comprehensive collection of Venetian material: paintings, sketches, and photos, all of which stimulate his work when he is in his Sidmouth studio.
Robert classes himself as a traditional English oil painter. He is a great believer in the art of observation, capturing atmosphere and light, and is always striving to improve and challenge his technique and abilities. Having painted for many years in a traditional method with oils as his choice of medium, Robert felt an urge to move on creatively with his Venice work. He says “I set myself a challenge to paint in an abstract and contemporary way that captures the essence of Venice, not by painting from life or observation, but from memory, imagination and spontaneity, completely the opposite to the working methods of my previous technique”.
Robert’s new exhibition at Sou’-Sou’-West Gallery in Symondsbury is the result of five years of study, experimenting with different surfaces, grounds and mediums. Entitled ‘Reflections of Venice’, Robert showcases the culmination of many hours spent sketching and testing colours which would best represent the light and tones of Venice, and striving to capture the atmosphere of the city in a visually recognisable way, but in an abstract style.
With the use of strong black lines and a limited palette on a pure white gesso panel surface, Robert depicts the architecture, basilicas, and churches with their arches, domes and statues. The courtyards and alleyways are a striking feature, with their wells and washing strung between the buildings and over the canals, the bridges, working boats, gondolas, mooring poles, and of course, the titular reflections, mirroring the scene for twice the impact. The essence of city life in Venice is truly captured, evoking the festivals, parades of boats, the bustling waterways, masked and costumed people and cats sunning themselves in the windows. Visitors to the gallery will also be invited to view how this body of work developed. A selection of working drawings, sketches, sketch books, notes, colour charts and the testing out of differing mediums and surfaces will be displayed, making an interesting, insightful and very personal exhibition of Venice, combined with the educational side of Robert’s creative journey.
At the Sou’-Sou’-West Arts Gallery in Symondsbury. Open Daily: 10:30 to 16:30, free entry and car parking.