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Artist Statement

These abstract paintings have evolved over the past ten years. They are a distillation of light, color, and surface, and follow a dozen years of representational painting "before the motif",-- outdoors from the landscape and, in the studio, from still life set-ups.

Movement toward the essential has always been a major concern in my paintings. An art historian friend once told me that my (earlier) landscape paintings looked as if they were done by an abstract painter who went outside.

The big change in my paintings, a renewal really, was begun directly after my second trip to Japan, around New Year's 1996. While there my wife and I toured Zen temples in Kyoto, including Ryoan-ji with its famous raked gravel rock garden. I've always felt close to a certain Japanese aesthetic, a kind of formal simplicity. Soon after returning to the States, I had a rare, clear, dream, (in color), of a large abstract painting. It was so vivid and convincing that I quickly set out to do the work. This was the beginning of my "adventure", the "trigger" that started me working on what I'd only thought about for a long time.

At times there have been particular correspondences in the natural, phenomenal, physical world to what I hope for in a painting. One such time was when I was walking in the loft space of our big, old, barn. Early morning sunlight was flooding the interior below. As I glanced down the light was bursting through thin slits between the floor boards making brilliant crevices of light,-- a metaphor, perhaps, for some sort of transcendent, otherworldly, awakening.

Another time an inspiration for a painting came from a long, thin vertical beam of light on a small, old, discolored and cloudy glass jar seen from a certain angle in my studio. Soon afterwards, I found a quote from the art critic Meyer Schapiro that resonated with this experience: "The still-life object as the meeting point of boundless forces of atmosphere and light, may evoke a mystical mood like Jakob Boehme's [German mystic, (1575 - 1624)] illumination through the glint on a metal ewer." I had certainly hoped for that "mystical mood" in earlier still-life paintings I'd done of glass, gourds, pitchers and such, but in these newer paintings I aspire to work with the forces (of light and atmosphere) themselves, directly, without the intermediary representation of objects.

Robert Stuart


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