The subjects of Robert Burt’s paintings are almost entirely found through his experiences in the Desert Southwest of the United States and northern Mexico. Although I had become aware of his art over the course of the past several years through gallery event advertisements and the occasional brief article about his work in art magazines.
I had never observed an original work until the day I first met him in person at the Arizona Fine Art Expo 2012 in Scottsdale, Arizona. My conversations with Robert Burt have continued every Winter since then, including at this year’s Expo. One of a number of large Winter-Spring art expositions in Maricopa County, this Expo strongly encourages the selected artists to be on site and at work as much as possible to interact with attendees.
“Come back any time, I paint every day”, he told me.
He may need to provide a chair!
This week, surrounded by an array of very colorful and illuminated acrylic paintings of iconic Southwestern landscapes and buildings, Burt was deeply engrossed in painting the sky in another outstanding work. Although photographic representations of his work give the impression of relatively smooth and seamless color fields, Burt’s brushwork imparts an intentional texture that in many cases is the most detailed part of a work. As his biography states,
“It is Robert’s desire to create paintings that convey a bit of mystery and adventure, leaving the feeling of joy”.
Amidst the apparent yet deceptive simplicity of his style, each work conveys a sense of arrival and place, often as viewed from the middle distance. Is the subject a building, an iconic automobile form reminiscent of the post-War ’40’s, an orderly copse of trees, or a rural road winding sinuously through golden hills like the swells on the sea? The subject may be part of a tableau of several or all of those components, all rendered with a keen comprehension of the quality of light in the desert and a certain knowledge born from experiencing the scene. In reality it is his reduction of the landscape he sees to “elemental and powerful components” that is compelling.
Robert Burt’s reductionist style allows viewers to more easily enter into each scene in the sense that he experienced it, telling a story without revealing all the details. The positioning and angle of approach to his subject matter leaves the viewer with a sense of “mystery and adventure” as he intends. The entirety of a tale is not illustrated, and the implied movement through a scene, around or past the objects within it, is not fully revealing of it, but hints at “more of the story” just around the next curve in the road or corner of a serendipitously placed landmark structure.
You, the viewer, have been granted the privilege of completing the story.
And, the buildings are landmarks of the Southwest – not in the “tour guide” or “architectural masterpieces” sense, but as obvious representations of the iconic, simple and unique historical buildings that are found within it. They do less to occupy the landscape than to inform it for the viewer and impart delight. “It took me thirty years to learn to paint simply”, he said while he was simply painting another story of light, color, adventure, mystery…
(The Arizona Fine Art Expo is open everyday 10am – 6pm from January 16 to March 29, 2015. It is located at the southwest corner of Scottsdale Road and Jomax Road in north Scottsdale, Arizona, and features about 100 artists, many to be found painting, sculpting, jewelry making — and talking to visitors — on any given day.)