Exhibition - Robert Townsend

Friday, Apr 23, 2021 at 10:00am

Altamira Fine Art
7038 East Main Street
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

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Altamira Fine Art Scottsdale is pleased to welcome Robert Townsend for a solo exhibit at our Scottsdale gallery, April 19-May 1, 2021.

Joie de Vivre

This is a small show as far as the number of paintings, but it’s ambitious in terms of their size. My goal has always been to focus on scale. I started my career as a muralist. I love painting big. If I’m sitting in a room, mulling my work, I’m thinking about the biggest, best painting I can do. It’s where I come from. Some of my friends love miniatures. I recognize the challenge of working small, but for me, it’s all about working big. This show only has seven pieces, and of those, six are big—four measure 5 by 7 feet. The majority are figurative pieces. Athletes often describe being “in the zone”—when their brain and body are completely consumed by something. Painting the human form gives me that feeling. There’s the human connection; people represent the most emotional aspect of our lives. Figures are also technically challenging: if you paint fabric, you can get some details wrong and no one will notice. But if the corner of a mouth is a millimeter off, everyone will pick up on it. Cars aren’t like that. Trees aren’t like that. It’s part of the magic of recognizing a painting as a flat surface but still reading it as a person. Dogs react to the Helen paintings as if she were real. The second Helen painting I ever did went to a home in Scottsdale. When the collector’s dog bounded into the living room after the painting had been installed, he freaked out, barking at Helen as if she were an intruder. To me, all of these elements make figurative work my favorite. The most challenging subjects are the most interesting to me. If you have abilities of any kind, you want to use them as best you can. I feel as though I’m doing that when I paint people. I’m squeezing out every little drop of my skills as an artist.

Of the figurative pieces in the show, there is one of Helen, my enduring muse. Also, a painting of her niece standing in an iconic parking lot in San Antonio, Texas. The photo was taken while she was visiting Helen and Roy on a day spent touring the city. There’s also a painting of Roy by himself—the first time I’ve ever focused on him alone. It’s an image I pulled from my Helen archive years ago and set aside. But it wasn’t until I scanned it a few months back that I recognized its potential as a painting. It’s a very unconventional composition; most of my Helen pieces feature her front and center with lesser aspects in the background. This image is so different. It’s mostly sky with a couple wispy clouds, a sliver of water, some heads bobbing in the waves, and a tiny slice of sand. Only Roy’s head and torso are visible in the bottom corner. Such unconventionality made it impossible for me to resist; it’s what makes the composition feel so contemporary.

I love going to places that seem unconventional, that change what the word ‘pretty’ means. Redefining beauty may be my biggest interest in art. Helen’s beauty comes from her celebration of life. She exuberantly embraces the full experience of life—the good, the bad and the ugly. Beauty comes from that texture and contrast. That foil is the heart of the painting of Helen’s niece. She’s a beautiful woman with Farrah Fawcett hair. But in the parking lot packed with shiny cars, she’s standing in an empty space with oil stains on the concrete in front of her feet. To me, that’s the whole painting. The oil stains are the relief, the counterpoint to her beauty. You have to take it all: the beautiful woman, the classic cars, the skyline and the oil stains. Without them, it would just be a pretty painting. Some artists may remove such blemishes. I just let the images speak. When I paint a feature that resonates with me, I rarely highlight it. Once the piece is out there for people to enjoy, it becomes a blessing if someone else identifies the part I love.

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