Friday, September 12, 2014

VICTORIANA. Robert Randall at Polychrome Gallery 11th-25th Sep 2014, by Philip Willey.

Robert Randall is well known in Victoria as a member of the Downtown Residents' Association, as a Board member of the Open Space Arts Society and a past member of the City's Downtown Advisory Committee. Randall placed ninth out of 35 candidates for City Council in the 2008 municipal election. He is particularly concerned with issues of homelessness and drug addiction.

For his position on these and other issues see his blog.*


Randall is a man of many parts. He paints sets for TV movies and local theatre and can sometimes be found searching for industrial size quantities of personal lubricant (for use as a prop I should add). He also paints houses.

I first came across Robert Randall’s house paintings at Open Space in 2006. The show, curated by Roy Green, was called ‘Domestic Bliss’ and featured Randall together with Karina Kalvaitis and Martin Golland. As the title suggests the show was an exploration of domestic bliss ‘that elusive element that makes a house a home.’ Randall being particularly interested in houses as status symbols, architecture, shelter, security, investments, commodities and expressions of personal identity.


He uses real estate ads as source material for his house paintings but there is clearly an aesthetic sensibility at work. The colours he uses tend to comment on the banality of black and white ads drawing our attention to the contradictions between the realtor’s vision and the reality. Garage doors, blocky shrubbery, there is an overall abstract element to the composition and by painting on wood he introduces a historical perspective. The result is often quite stark. Ordinary dwellings become art objects but without any prettification which makes an interesting contrast to the work of more orthodox practitioners of the genre.


One wonders to what extent Randall’s paintings can be separated from his political activities. It’s all connected he says. His interests are wide ranging as can be seen in the show at Polychrome. The paintings are all quite small. Along with the houses are some small paintings of ships battling heavy weather and the recent fire in the View Towers apartment building on Quadra Street. Randall has an eye for anomalies. He is drawn to those points where the mundane becomes spectacular.


Politics has taken a back seat to painting lately he says. But he’s watching. Especially the Johnson Street Bridge which is predictably headed for cost overruns as the City tries to reconcile the vision with the reality.


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