January 18, 2011

By Maureen Sellick


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Bob’s Statements from Exhibitions

In the shallows

The Gallery in Cork St, London October 2001

My early years were spent in rural England. I grew up in the small market town of Louth with a love for the tranquillity of the Lincolnshire countryside, its old red-brick buildings, apple blossom and rolling shady pastures.

Although my early aptitude for drawing and interest in art tended towards a naive pre-occupation with realism, my fascination for the painterly was perhaps the beginning of looking for something more than just a painted illusion of nature.

During a period of study in Yorkshire, I visited the Hayward Gallery in London to see an exhibition of Cezanne’s watercolour paintings. The exhibition marked the beginning of a long influence by Cezanne; an influence which I scarcely anticipated at the time, since to my shame, I found little to my liking. However, true to form, Cezanne’s greatness overcame the inadequacies of my own vision and apparently his influence can still be detected in my painting.

Seven years of art teaching in Lancashire offered little opportunity for producing my own work, but it did provide a vital period of thinking, and a better philosophical basis for future development.

Whilst training for ordination as an Anglican priest, I was encouraged by the Reverend John White’s in the arts, and the significance of painting as an expression of spirituality began to be more apparent to me. I produced a small number of explicitly religious work at this time, largely dealing with the death of Christ as the paradoxical vulnerability of God. It has however, never been my intention to work with exclusively religious motifs, since I believe that Jesus assumed God was the meaning of everything; common or extraordinary.

It is partly for this reason that Rouault’s work represents something of an ideal for me. Rouault did not need to confine himself to Christian themes.; everything he did was saturated with his spirituality, and because this his work has an integrity which is in itself Christian, challenging the dichotomy between the religious and the secular.

In 1989 I moved to Australia to take on a parish in the spectacular, and at times, hostile environment in the North West. The uncompromising impact of this Australian landscape was a substantial contrast with my previous experience and it demanded an extensive reassessment of my visual language. Many of my recent paintings arise from a passion for the contrast and colour in this area which is breathtaking, and often quite unbelievable.

Poem by Rev John White, Canon of Windsor

Could it be that,

In the beginning


Extended an outstretched arm,

With elongated index finger,

Towards the pure palette

Of primeval mud,

And with a hooked tip

Scooped up a viscous mess

To smear on the

Canvas of the Globe.

So, half by chance

And half by design,

Earth’s artistry was born.

Margaret River Gallery, Margaret River WA 2004

Given the normal demands of drawing and composition, colour and brush-stroke direction are the language of my visual expression. Underlying this is my commitment to the idea that, against the sometimes formidable contradiction of experience, being is basically and profoundly good and beautiful. The dignity of ordinariness, which the impressionists encouraged us to celebrate, is often in sharp contrast to a crippling perception that love perception that love and joy are only sustained by perfection. “worship”, then, is a constant motive and theme in my painting of the every day.

“A Few Mistakes”  Margaret River Gallery, Margaret River WA June 2005

“All things are better, lovelier and more beloved for the imperfection which has been divinely appointed” (John Ruskin, 1853).

One of the great pleasures of painting is in finding that defects need detract nothing. My experience has been that only when the painting is pretending to be something that it is not, that imperfections are a problem. The unthinking, unfeeling precision of the camera is not an achievement to which the painter aspires: the aspiration is to be more alive, more human. Exactitude’s demands are very modest in comparison- to become truly human is an exacting, lifelong discipline, inspired by the divine image.

“Carried Away by the Useless” The Harbour Gallery, Jersey July 2006

Bob Booth has a painterly style and is best described as a figurative, gestural colourist. His considerable versatility is evident in his varied choice of subject matter. To date he uses oils more than acrylics and favours heavy application of thick textured paint on the canvas.

Booth continues to paint with very long brushes (over a metre in length), a practice which importantly offers the possibility of limited control.

“For me, a practical, ‘paint and canvas’ outcome, from a recent book by the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr Rowan Williams) has been the liberating notion that art is intrinsically useless” says Booth.

“Art is not therapy, a medium for self expression, a vehicle of concepts or a platform genius. It does not earn its place at the heart of humanity because of its usefulness. It is only loved properly when it is loved because it is what it is. When the good of what is being made on the canvas is all that matters, we celebrate the nature of divine creativity and glimpse the useless servants of God”.

Bob Booth has exhibited widely in the UK,  France and Western Australia with a solo show at Windsor Castle, London in 2003 and a sell-out show in Margaret River last year.

We invite you experience aspects of Western Australia seen through the eyes of this fresh contemporary artist, where freedom of brushstroke captures the vibrancy and beauty of our landscape.

“More to Seeing than Meets the Eye”  Gallery Nine by Five, Fremantle WA 2007

I am frequently tempted to dismiss artists’ statements as far too theoretical and nebulous to have an honest connection with the actual production of a painting.

But this romantic notion that we are more in touch with actuality when calling a spade a spade fails to recognise the mystery that makes life more than just existence.

It is in fact, what is not plain and straightforward that entices and captivates, draws and expands us. We look for what is beyond the confines of the artist’s intentions and comprehension, for something more true than that which can merely be seen.

“The Unfinished Painter”  Margaret River Gallery, Margaret River WA October 2008

The start of every new work is exciting and full of promise. These indefinable and vague hopes, illuminated by great achievements from history are both demanding and compelling. Painting is however a way of seeking what cannot be grasped, an acknowledgement that there is something in us that is deeply unsatisfied by what is containable.

Every new work points to possibilities beyond itself; the surprise fulfilment of the incomplete.

We have the joy of living and ending unfinished, because we are part of something greater than our individuality.

It seems that many artists experience an absence of possessive pride in the work that they produce, and some have even spoken of turning the worked canvas to the wall, allowing the angels to complete it. In any event, what is made participates in a broader creativity, in some significant way depriving the maker of ownership that would seem reasonable to complete it. In any event, what is made participates in a broader creativity, in some significant way depriving the maker of ownership that would seem reasonable.

“An Attempt at Obedience” Linton and Kay, Subiaco WA March 2008

“The completion of a new exhibition is always a time of demanding reflection.  Letting go of each development that seems to offer some ‘know-how’ security, is never comfortable;  but for me remains a sort of personalised requirement for progress.

“Any notion of arriving at some mastery that offers certainty to my next effort is not really a hope at all, as I note that progress depends on obedience rather than mastery.

“The inner necessity of the work, (that very small unassuming voice,) requires a corresponding inner silence of the painter.  It seems to be a process of developing sensitivity to what is required of me in order to follow.”