Nationality: New Zealand
Website: Website
New Zealand artist
Born in Northampton, England 1929
Lives and works in Auckland

One of the first work experiences Robert Ellis had was aerial photography as a cartographer with the RAF. From so high up, the experience of depth is lost and patterns appear which otherwise cannot be seen.

In his earlier paintings, these patterns – like intricate systems of roads in imaginary cities – are a dominant feature. Later he combined images rather than objects in unusually two-dimensional “still-life” paintings. For these he used motifs and symbols from a wide range of cultural and historical sources,

Robert Ellis keeps his distance. He handles symbols as if he was making a floral arrangement, combining them in strong and austere compositions, using firm dark lines and bold primary colours, which do not refer to the natural appearance of things.

All this could be seen as an exercise in abstraction if the different images used were not inviting the mind to make associations and think. For instance, the shapes of constellations and the Latin names, “Algol”, “Vela”, “Octans”, “Eridanus”, “Carina”, are combined with Christian symbols, presented as if they were carved in stone and one has to wonder why. Maybe this is just a map of a dreamland, or a sketch of some alchemist’s experiment. Or what…?