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Wednesday, 17 June 2015 15:11

Artist uses unusual material to create visual journeys

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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The Art Gallery of Swift Current’s current exhibition of large abstract paintings by Edmonton artist Robert Scott is unique in a number of ways.


These paintings have been created over a period of about 10 years through the use of an unusual material called black copper slag that is normally used as an abrasive for blast-cleaning of metal surfaces.
Scott uses a variety of tools, including brooms, to move this material around on each canvas into compositions that he prefers to leave untitled to allow each viewer to experience the work in a very unique way.
“I wouldn’t know how to describe what’s going on in there, because I’m just using my eyes and I trust them,” he said. “I don’t want to contaminate them by words. I take the titles off these because I only use that for cataloguing, but if I put a name on it, then people are going to look at that and then try to find that in there.”
Scott spoke about his approach to the creation of art during a public reception for this exhibition, titled Copper Slag, at the Art Gallery of Swift Current May 29.
He has already used this unorthodox method of painting with brooms and garden tools in earlier works, and he has been able to apply it effectively when he moves copper slag around on a large canvas.
“I use brooms to push it around,” he said. “You sweep the floor and you start seeing things.”
His intention is to produce a painting through a completely free process. His goal is not to use his art to make any statements, but to simply paint and to be creative.
“I only want a show of art and I want to paint natural paintings,” Scott said. “I want them not to be contaminated by all the stuff. I just want to go in and paint.”
He compared his experience of painting with that of a basketball player that focuses only on his own movements during a game.
“Every painting you make, you have to break through something,” he said. “You have to get into a different zone and for me painting is the medium that allows me to get into a different zone and explore things. ... For me it’s physical too, because I’m moving around these things. I’m not still when I’m painting.”
Scott will place each canvas on the floor of his studio and then move around to create patterns in the copper slag with different tools. Eventually he will apply a bonding medium to the copper slag to keep it in place.
He will get on a tall ladder to view the paintings from above. He will sometimes even fall asleep while sitting on the ladder.
“I don’t consciously or unconsciously think the painting is finished, but I’ll wake up maybe an hour later and the painting is there and so somehow I’ll know it’s finished,” he said.
Art Gallery of Swift Current Director and Curator Kim Houghtaling said it is easy to get caught up in the energy and composition of these paintings.
“I’m looking at it visually, and the movement and the actions of the configuration pick me up,” he said. “I start to follow directions and patterns and I have a sense of the elements, like the light quality, the inventive shape of the suggested action of every component, and I go on a visual ride through the work.”
He noted the use of copper slag adds to the unique quality and colour of each work in the exhibition.
“I think this copper slag material is a wonderful discovery,” he said. “It just has this beautiful black velvety quality to it. It’s like a very heavy kind of charcoal material, only this material has a benefit of a glint and a crispness to it that you don’t find with charcoal.”
Scott was born in Melfort and spent a part of his childhood in Lafleche in southwest Saskatchewan. He has a studio in Edmonton, but travels frequently to southwest Saskatchewan where he also works in a studio located in a former school building in the village of Cadillac.
“It’s a good place to go and spend time concentrating,” he said about the Cadillac studio. “I like it out there. I like to wander around the hills and the nice skies at night.”
The Copper Slag exhibition will be on display at the Art Gallery of Swift Current until July 4. For more information about current and upcoming exhibitions, visit the gallery’s website at: www.artgalleryofswiftcurrent.org.

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