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Between Abstraction and Representation with Renee Robbins

Renee Robbins understands the vividly apparent as well as the hidden splendor that is naturally available to all of us in this world.  Her work oscillates between abstraction and representation in ways that tantalize the mind and stimulate the senses with wonder and gratefulness to be alive. Her paintings look like pictures of alien life forms possessed with colorful beauty surviving on an unknown planet that is untouched by humans.  Renee definitely has a soul that is embedded in our natural world and she evangelizes this with beautiful art that lures you to appreciate and marvel at all the treasures available to us for free.  We thank Renee for exposing S.N.C to her amazing work.

"Moving between the real and imagined, my painting process brings together microscopic and ..."

Please tell us a little about yourself – your childhood, siblings, where you grew up, what you liked as a child, strange thoughts as a child/now, unique attributes, where you live now, etc.?

I’m a Chicago-based visual artist known for bringing together the microscopic and telescopic. I’m deeply invested in spending time enjoying nature and seeking out new adventures. As an ordinary kid growing up in the Midwest, the nearest ocean was miles and miles away. As a child, I wanted to be a marine biologist but realized later that I was an artist. Biology was always a huge interest and in particular I was obsessed with oceanic flora and fauna, because it’s something I didn’t have easy access to. For a short time I had a pet turtle with three legs, which we eventually released, at a local pond because he was better off on his own. I really wanted to give him a good home in the sandbox in my backyard – but it didn’t quite work. Additionally, I attempted to keep caterpillars and lightning bugs as pets by creating my own microenvironments for them. I begged and begged my mother to let me have a pet snake but she wouldn’t have it in the house. Each obsession never lasted long as I was soon off to the next adventure and discovery. Dreaming about what different environments can look like and what happens in them is a way to escape or a fantasy. I enjoy looking through a microscope as it’s like seeing an entirely different universe.

 

What does your art and art in general mean to you?

By creating and putting things into the world, I believe that art can inspire, improve our quality of life, and enable new conversations. Being an artist is a way of life, something I have to do and I don’t see it as a choice. At times it may seem irrational to be an artist but it fulfills me. A place to dream or contemplate our relationship to all the amazing things that surround us enriches our experience. Have you ever looked at dust magnified 5000 times - it’s absolutely beautiful! In the same way, it’s so exciting to discover similarities between diverse systems and put them in conversation with one another within a painting. The world is a rich place full of amazing things that range from the small to the very large and I want to bring attention to the spectacle.

 

How do you describe your form of art?

My paintings ebb and flow between abstraction and representation in order to build each environment with thin transparencies, diverse textures, and bright colors. I position hybrid flora and fauna inside a space that simultaneously evokes the deep sea and the cosmos. Moving between the real and imagined, my painting process brings together microscopic and telescopic viewpoints. The work is visually dense like the external environment we often find ourselves in. I explore the seen and the unseen parts of our human experience as it shifts from interior to exterior notions. Additionally, I’m interested in conveying beauty and grotesque in one work – it creates mysteries.  

 

What tools do you use for the creation of your work and how did you create your personal style?

My tools are traditional in the sense that I use acrylic paint, brushes, and canvas/panel. My style developed over the course of making lots and lots of paintings and drawings over the past 20 years. I learned to draw by observing the world and through making many mistakes. My interest in science and nature provides the foundation for the concepts and ideas in my work. Pattern, color, and texture influence my compositional choices. Creating detail with tiny brushes is my favorite part of the process.


Although we know that your work draws from natural phenomena, there seems to be a lot of symbolism in them - Is there anything in particular that you are trying to convey with your work?

Yes, I hope to highlight and bring attention to the sense of wonder in the natural world. I want the work to pose a question and spark a curiosity about our place on this planet. By blending a molecular pattern, plant structure, and star constellation together- it blends the micro with macro. I can create a work that goes deep inside another painting of mine and that is really exciting! My painting research sifts through many images and articles in order to reveal insights about the subject and to let ideas gestate. However, I like to keep it loose so I can invent new forms through invention. The painting process is a constant balancing act. The work helps us to make sense of who we are and how we can relate to all that is around us. The work is densely layered like the world we often find ourselves in. I see it as encompassing all our hopes, desires, and dreams.

 

What is the worst critique you have ever received about your work? What is the best compliment that you have received about your work?

I don’t really view critiques in terms of best or worst because I don’t measure art conversations in polarities of good and bad. I listen to the critiques that resonate with me or ones that I think brought up something valid. While I enjoy positive compliments on my work, I have to internally feel 100% about a work or I won’t put it out into the world.  The most important critique is the rigor that I put my own creative process through, and it’s often the harshest. People have made many comments about my work and what’s most important is to listen to my own voice and let go of all those comments while I’m working.  As an artist you have to develop a really thick skin. I deeply enjoy when my work resonates with someone else and when they feel comfortable in sharing their reasons. That’s really exciting to hear as an artist. 

 

Since Style.No.Chaser is a men’s lifestyle magazine, what attributes/items/clothing /etc. do you think define a man?

I would say shoes, jackets, and the colors in the wardrobe define a personal style. The colors can tell a story of a personality – whimsical, creative, and fun!   


What is your personal life philosophy?
Perseverance and celebration! Love life and don’t wait for things to happen – decide what you want, go after it, and make your own path. 

 

Who dead or alive, celebrity or not, artist or not, would you like to go on a two week road trip with and why?
I would go on a trip with Dr. Seuss because it would so fun to pick his brain and to learn about him as a person. His work has such a great creative energy so it would be fun to have a chance to spend an extended period of time together. You can really get to know someone on a road trip and can gain great insight.

 

How can people learn more about your current and upcoming works?

My website has my images from portfolio with different series like Galactic Lagoons and the Daily Drawing Project where I started and completed a painting each day for a year. Additionally, I have a newsletter link on my website where visitors can sign up to receive updates on what’s happening in my studio with new works and exhibitions.
Let’s connect on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to keep up with works in process, new works, and news. I’m pretty active in posting works in process and studio updates.
 

 

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