Melbourne artist Robert Doble studied at the Chelsea School of Art, London. He is represented in the National Gallery of Victoria as well as Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the Rockhampton Art Gallery, the Botanical Restaurant and private collections in Australia, Japan, the UK, the USA, Italy and Spain.
“Robert Doble celebrates the aesthetic fusions between art and science, using a seemingly unnatural combination of colours that, in fact, captures the true colours of nature.”ALEX MCCULLOCH Art consultant
Having grown up on the edge of Dartmoor in south-west England, Robert Doble studied art for six years in London, at Reigate School of Art & Design, Croydon School of Art and Chelsea School of Art & Design. He moved to Australia in 1990, and lives in inner-city Melbourne. “I’ve always been surrounded by the countryside - which I think is why I love the open spaces of Australia. I hate suburbia - that space in-between - I’d rather be right in the middle of the city, or out in the huge open spaces.”
Doble started painting from a young age, and has been painting full-time since 1998. Originally a figurative painter, his favourite artists still are Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach (his drawing teacher at Croydon) and Jenny Saville. It was only later that he made the transition to abstract art “because I felt I felt other people were doing figurative work so much better than I ever could”.
In 2000, New York artist Ross Bleckner offered him the opportunity to live and work for a year at his studio in TriBeCa, formerly 1980s ‘It’ spot, the Mudd Club. It was here that Doble started work on his Grid series. “The paintings summarised my experience of living in New York; reflecting that kinetic energy. When you look down from those tall buildings, you see all the avenues, the criss-cross of grids - formed by the streets, the electrical wires. But it was also about the energy of New York - the containment, but also that beautiful line about [the city] that never stops. That’s where the idea of those ‘running off’ lines of paint came from. I originally used signwriters’ gloss enamels, because of the velocity of the paint and the intensity of the colours.
“I call the series Gravity, because I let the paint pull itself down the canvas. I fill up very fat plastic syringe tubes with paint and I’ve now worked out, just by looking at it exactly how much paint I’ll need for how long the paint will take to drop down the canvas. The first pieces I did, I had imagery behind of New York streetscapes and mountain scenes - and then built up a criss-cross of paint ‘containing’ them. Then I moved on solely to this graphic, abstract, linear work, building up the squares with car-spray paint, masking off the squares.
“The lines are just free-falling gravity at work. Each piece takes about three months to make because of the drying process, and because I have to rotate the canvas in each direction, building up layers, having worked out the pattern of colours I want. I’m really into colour theory, the embodiment of colour and how humans respond to colours.”
Doble’s later series he calls his Plasma paintings. Large-format, they are informed by his long-time interest in botany and biology. “While my Grid works are more industrial-looking, I like that contrast. I collect medical books, particularly German medical books of the 1920s, with all those bizarre and fascinating photographs of diseases. I see beyond what’s on the body, and see the patterns on the skin, in the cross-sections of plants, in molecular structures.”
In what could be considered an extension of this is Doble’s ongoing collaboration with photographer Simon Strong. “Doble & Strong is very much about the figure, but in the medical sense. So we’re dealing with future technology, the future of mankind, genetic engineering. So I’m able to work with the figure, but in a photographic sense. We’re producing really big artworks, but we’re like doctors! We project objects through pig skin - which is much like human skin and superimpose these onto the body. We use friends as life models, as some people might get a bit offended by what we’re doing!”
Above all, Doble remains fascinated by colour: “I was once called ‘a very gifted colourist’ by an art critic, and at the time I didn’t like that term, seeing it as an insult! But I understand now what he meant. I think people are afraid of colour, which is sad. I love living in a ‘white box’, because I use colour so much, but I do like walking into a room and seeing, perhaps, a beautiful big green wall, or bold furniture colours. It’s important.”read less