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Artistic Statement

In paintings I strive for “new beauty,” for opening pathways to emotional and intuitive responses.

Three "encounters,” have been particularly inspiring to me as an abstract painter. The first was walking unawares into an exhibit of eight sequential grid paintings by Agnes Martin, and seeing that contemporary painting could be about the infinite. Another was standing on brilliant crevices of light in the loft of our large, old barn as early morning sunlight filled the bay below transforming slits between the floorboards into lines of light. It was what I wanted in painting. And thirdly, directly after a trip to Japan which included a tour of Zen gardens, a vivid dream of a large red abstract painting with white lines that compelled me to start on this path.

In the process of painting I feel that I am exploring, following leads, intuitively interacting with the materials and the evolving structure. Getting a sense of light from the work is important. The process is additive and subtractive, as I layer, scrape, add and erase with knives and scrappers, fingers, cloths, wax and mineral spirits. Sometimes I use collage from painted paper strips, residue from the making of larger paintings. The colors and textures of these residual, painted papers are often the inspiration for new works.

Robert Stuart


About half my time growing up was spent overseas while my father worked for USAID and UNESCO. Four years at Boston University’s School for the Arts was a rigorous, traditional program with much figure drawing. Philip Guston was a major influence there.

After living in Guam for eighteen months, Boston again, then Virginia, I had a Teaching Assistantship and earned an MFA at James Madison University. Following this I launched a career as a painter of landscapes or still-lifes, and found success in galleries. Being selected for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Un/Common Ground exhibit was a great early boost.

After ten years established in this representational style, but with episodes of experimentation in abstraction, my response to abstract painting became so evident I could no longer deny it. Discovering Agnes Martin’s paintings and writings was crucial. Finally, after a trip to Japan visiting Zen gardens, a vivid dream of a large, red, abstract painting was so compelling that I set out in a new direction. Then almost immediately major confirmation: chosen for the New Orleans Museum of Art Triennial, and not long after, receiving an Academy Award in Art from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


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