About Tim Roberts
British landscape painting has been generally under-represented in the BritArt era, which is strange given that a love of landscape, or at least a love of the countryside, has been an English obsession since Elizabethan times. The idea of the Greenwood as a sylvan utopia of almost communistic egalitarianism runs deep in the national psyche. It is a generous concept not shared by other European cultures, (nor even some of our fellow Britons) whose deep, dark woods are godless and fearful.
It is odd, then, that Britain – of all places – became the birthplace of our modern idea of the sublime: a diminution of the self, bordering on horror, in the face of the vast indifference of nature. By the time this idea had gained currency – the eighteenth century – the countryside had become a palimpsest written over and over by the passage of time and men. The enclosures and subsequent shift of the rural workforce to city-based industries allowed the Romantic movement to reverse engineer an urban nostalgia for an imagined sublime landscape – the ‘blue remembered hills’ of AE Housman’s poem.
Modernist painters of the pre-war generation – Paul Nash, Stanley Spencer, Christopher Nevinson, Ben Nicholson, Eric Ravilious et al. – variously tried to represent this collision of English painterly Romanticism with the jagged vertices of modernity and mechanised warfare. It was an endeavour which proved to be devastatingly successful: to misquote Yeats, ‘Romantic England is dead and gone…’ and, in particular, the Romantic England of the interwar era.
Instead we are left with an industrialised and prairie-farmed landscape riven by call centres, high speed rail links, distribution warehouses, wind farms and nuclear power plants. In opposition, the forces of nostalgia attempt to set the countryside in aspic: the National Trust, the National Parks, the greenbelt and Downton Abbey.
A land of lost content indeed, but with car-parking, loos, and carrot and coriander soup.
The challenge for a contemporary painter is how to represent – or at least, address – this new, emergent landscape. As well as acknowledging his debt to the Romantic Modernists, Tim Roberts also draws on the work of a later generation of painters – John Tunnard, Adrian Heath, Victor Pasmore, Bill Scott, William Gear – in the search for a harder-edged representation of an increasingly compromised idea of the sublime.
Tim Roberts studied fine art at the Sir John Cass School of Art and then at Chelsea School of Art back in the late seventies before taking a thirty-year career break, returning to full-time painting about six years ago.
1989: Chisenhale Gallery – group show.
2008: Candid Arts – solo contribution to group show
2010: Finsbury Business Centre – solo exhibition.
2014: Morley Gallery – solo exhibition.
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Address: 122 Hemingford Road, London, N1 1DE