Robert Amos, "Imaginary Landscape," ink and watercolour on Chinese paper.
Traces of the Brush, September 7 to October 31,2009, Eclectic Gallery, Victoria
BY: Beverly Cramp
A long-time fixture on the Victoria art scene both as a painter of the city and as an arts writer for more than 20 years, Robert Amos will surprise those who aren’t familiar with the full extent of his art practice. Many know Amos for his whimsical acrylic paintings of Victoria life and landscapes, which he has been painting since 1975. He has also been creating works influenced by Eastern brush and ink techniques, which he was exposed to while working at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria from 1975 to 1980. “The gallery has a huge collection of Chinese and Japanese works,” he says. “I had a tremendous opportunity to study them as well as see demonstrations from visiting Eastern artists. I was able to see what they did first hand.” Amos took these techniques and melded them with his own Western ideas. “Typically, Chinese brush and ink art depicts imaginary landscapes — rocks, mountains and water. I experienced lots of these landscape themes here in British Columbia. But how do you paint pine trees and falling water? You can learn the forms but the content should be what’s in your heart.” Traditional Eastern art also incorporates inscription — after much experimenting, Amos found his inscriptions in James Joyce’s writings. “Joyce is difficult to read. I found that if you read his books one word at a time, you can see the material as a series of small poems. After studying his work, I knew I had found what I was looking for.”