Artist Interview: Robyn Sweaney - Art Collector

25 October 2011

Painter Robyn Sweaney talks to Australian Art Collector about her latest exhibition at Anthea Polson Art. Sweaney’s latest show Roadtrip – From here … to there and places in between features paintings of suburbia between the North Coast and Melbourne.

Robyn Sweaney, Varying the Elevation. Acrylic on linen, 47 x 67cm

What attracted you to painting houses?

I started painting houses because I saw that the environment that I've known for a long time was changing. Initially I just wanted to capture that but once I did that I just saw that there were so many more houses to paint. I realised there was a bigger narrative to it than just my sense of place. I felt that you could take it in so many different directions in relation to how our social values have changed and how we live.

How do you choose which buildings to paint?

A lot of it is about light and I spent a lot of time looking at how the light hits a building and how it will give a completely different feel - its almost like a stage setting.

Often the houses I paint will also be from the 1950s and 1960s because the owners have retained something of that essence in their building. It often says something about their character ... like when somebody chooses to paint their steps with a bright red paint.

Are you trying to capture something historical in your works?

There is that sort of element but its not just about painting a building to capture a moment in time. I've tried to capture the social aspect. For example, some of the buildings that i [painted] have a narrative behind them. Its not about looking to the past and being nostalgic, it's more like these buildings still exist and are still being used.

Which artists do you go to for inspiration?

Howard Arkley was the first Australian artist who looked to the suburbs as a positive inspiration for his art rather than as a place that has always been derided. And Jeffrey Smart for the way he composes his images.

I think as a painted when you paint from the real world, it's more often about what you leave out than what you keep in that is important. Often I don't put the sky in, I flatten out the sky and the roads so there's a play with dimensions there. I've also started to take away the background and the houses on the sides.

All of your paintings in this exhibition are of house exteriors. Have you considered painting interiors?

I've actually noticed that all of the houses that I choose to paint, you can't actually see into the interior space. There are either blinds or curtains so they're almost like containers.

Robyn Sweaney, Growing Petunias. Acrylic on linen, 47 x 67cm. Courtesy: Anthea Polson Art

Have you noticed a change in your artistic approach or your choice of subjects?

I think I'm getting more caught up in the detail. I think it's more like doing a portrait of a house.

Amy Yang

Robyn Sweaney'’s latest exhibition,
Roadtrip - From here ... to there and places in between is on show at Anthea Polson Gallery in Main Beach until 5 November 2011.

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