ROBIN ROSE (BORN 1946)
When you first look at Delirium, you see nothing or very little until you begin to look closer at the richly textured surface. Rose uses encaustic, a wax-based painting medium that is mixed with colored pigments. The painting is monochromatic (painted with black pigment), but varied in the way light reflects on the slightly raised surface. Due the black matte surface and the indiscriminate markings applied across the canvas, the painting appears like a chaotic void. Yet, Rose includes a trapezoid at the bottom, using one-point perspective to draw the viewer into the void, thereby transforming a seemingly negative space into a positive one.
Encaustic painting was used by the Egyptians and Romans during the first century A.D. and was rediscovered by artists during the 20th century as an alternative to oil paint. Fritz Faiss, a student of Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, developed a patent for the preparation of beeswax for encaustic that enabled him to produce a hard wax surface. By the 1990s, Rose and other contemporary artists began to use encaustic as a more general practice because they enjoyed the flexibility of the medium and could produce a wide variety of complex, artistic patterns.
Rose was born in Ocala, Florida in 1946. He attended Florida State University where he studied painting with Karl Zerbe, who introduced him to the encaustic medium. Rose, known as a Washington D. C. colorist, developed a preference for encaustic wax painting because it appeared to be visible and invisible at the same time. As he paints, Rose prefers to have some background noise (Rose is also a musician) and focuses on one color and one word to guide the creative process - delirium. Rose produces paintings that are unclear and abstract, yet they serve less as a barrier and more as an invitation for the viewer to make associations with familiar images, ideas, or feelings.
Two thousand years ago, the Fayum Mummy portraits of the Coptic period were painted with encaustic medium on wood and placed over the body of the deceased. On the left is Mummy Portrait of a Young Woman painted during the 2nd-century A.D. During the 20th century, Fritz Faiss was a painter who was one of the first to reintroduce the encaustic medium by developing two patents for encaustic wax. Faiss painted Ship Approaching in 1957, which reveals the influence of Kandinsky and Klee. Rose studied with Karl Zerbe, a proponent of encaustic painting, when he was a student at Florida State University. Rose is a musician and often prefers to play music, while painting. For example, his most recent work Kinda Blue was inspired by Miles Davis’s composition of the same name. Listen to a sample of Miles Davis’ Kinda Blue in the iTunes music store or Amazon.
Fayum Mummy Portrait, 2nd century A.D, encaustic on wood panel; Fritz Faiss, Ship Approaching, 1957 encaustic on canvas, Karl Zerbe, Golden Hat, 1946, encaustic on canvas over Masonite; Robin Rose, Kinda Blue, 2011, encaustic on linen on aluminum.
Rose uses a trapezoid to give structure to his monochromatic and minimalist paintings. Look closely at the painting. Can you see the slightly raised surface of the wax veil on a matte black surface? What can you see? Does the blackness represent a void or does it open up a world of possibilities?