Urban landscapes are a source of so much - contrasting structures, the play of light against buildings, beautiful and magnificent architecture juxtaposed against the grotesque - but above all narratives that are woven around the actions of those that inhabit the urban environment but also emanate from the structures.
Let's see what visual story teller Robert Bissell has to show us as we take time to examine a few of his urban scenes.
In September 2021 there was an exhibition of Bissell's Landscapes of the Mind at Lahaina Galleries in Newport Beach, California.
The publicity statement included this apt quote from A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman McLean:
All there is to thinking, is seeing something noticeable which makes you see something you weren’t noticing which makes you see something that isn’t even visible. 1
We have all seen a similar scene to the one above illustrated in Tracks. But do you stop to think about the elements in the composition that have a story to tell? The painting is quite large - 36" x 48" and is an oil on canvas creation.
Previously, Robert Bissell’s animal paintings described the human condition allegorically, with animal narratives set in natural environments. In his new landscape collection, Bissell continues to reflect on our relationship to nature by depicting the dichotomy between the creations of humans and the natural world. The scenes we are shown are familiar to us; however, they ask us to pause, observe and contemplate our journey. Bissell then shows us that there is a magic, life and beauty in the ordinary things around us.1
Everyday details we routinely pass by are highlighted by his compositional approach and brushwork, transcending the limitations of the photographic form. The texture and palpable realism of paint on canvas allow us to discern details differently…how a concrete road ramp has been constructed, how a wild rambling bush grows over an old fence, or how the light falls over a modern home. Because these are the landscapes we have known all our lives they are part of our history and they resonate with us deeply. We not only see into our own narratives but feel empathy for the extraordinary world at our front door.1
There are so many familiar scenes in the Robert Bissell urban landscapes which transcend the boundaries of our countries and cultures. We have all stood at a Bus Stop (Oil on Linen, 24" x 36") at some time or another. Did you look around you? Or were you fixated on watching for the bus?
Or perhaps you were visiting and admiring a friend's new home and the Atrium with Palm (Oil on Canvas, 22" x 28") caught your eye and mind.
Often what you glimpse in a corner is more fascinating than the obvious in front of you. A sudden feature can sometimes enhance, sometimes distract.
And sometimes the urban scene in front of you is a mass of shapes and colours without a distinct focus. Your eyes scan around the composition trying to locate a focal point. Let your eyes lead you to discover the hidden details in Deconstruction (Oil on Canvas, 40" x 42") as shown below.
Or perhaps it's the Alpine White (below) car in the parking lot that catches your eye - and you wonder for a moment about the owner who is obviously proud of this vehicle. The oil on canvas painting is 40" x 42".
Don't forget to look down and not only to make sure you don't trip over the endless traps that lurk beneath our feet. But also lurking below our eye level are numerlous chapters in the book of walking the road of life!
Street (below), an oil on canvas (24" x 20") painting, illustrates the life that the road has had. Take a moment to think about why humans created this maze of lines in such a tiny segment of the street's thoroughfare.
Many of us have had plenty of time over the past two years to look around us and think about the ordinary elements in our lives as we waited out the Covid-19 lockdowns. Five of the AnArt4Life blog team live in Melbourne - the city with the dubious record of having been locked in for the longest time in the world!!
Robert Bissell created most of these urban landscapes in the past 18 months. If you would like to view more of his lockdown landscapes please click here.
Two scenes that might be familiar to you are - View from My Shower and Stilled Life
Tomorrow Jane has something wonderful to show you - a living urban landscape that goes by the name: Laz's Lane which exemplifies so wonderfully how beauty can be found and grow in the most ordinary of spaces - a suburban laneway. There are stories all around us; in the very ground on which we walk. And the narratives that weave through Jane's post are a testament to the wonderful relationships humans have with their environment and each other.
In the meantime: follow this link to check out the website of Robert Bissell.
If you are a Facebook user you can check out Robert Bissell's page by clicking here.
And if you missed previous AnArt4Life posts on the works of Robert Bissell please check out the bookmark links below.
I have showcased some of Robert Bissell's urban landscapes as a prelude to other posts I'm preparing on the urban scene in art. Very soon I am going to tell you the story of the Ashcan School of New York and the Kitchen Sink Painters in Britain - both groups were interested in ordinary people in everyday settings and produced some amazing works.