Making art is a way of life for Australian artist Robyn Ross. She recalls being forever compelled to record images of people, describing painting as “an obsession” – one that always includes meticulous research on her subjects. You could easily describe Robyn as the quintessential artist in search of the lives of others to interpret on her canvas.
Her most recent works evolved from being in lockdown , many walks around the neighbourhood resulted in collecting native flowers and leaves and creating a whole new body of work from the fascinating shapes . It has linked me to my ancestry my great great uncle instigated the Chelsea Flower show, saved Kew Gardens The Lindley Library at the RHS in London is named after him. Who would have thought a pandemic could have inspired experimentation of a new style and subject to paint.
Growing up in Sydney, Robyn’s carefree childhood days were a rich mix of cultural influences, shared with neighbours from Yugoslavia, and Greek and Italian school friends.
High School elective and tertiary art history studies introduced her to Diego Riveria, though her fascination was with his wonderful colourfully dressed wife - Frida ( Frieda) Kahlo who at that time was considered " a wife of a famous artist who played around with paint" A fascination continuing today through research, study and a magnitude of sketches and artworks in tribute to this iconic woman who lived her short life to the fullest through many traumatic experiences.
Colours, traditions and friendships impacted my life from a young age. My grandparents travelled extensively to exotic places, at a time when not many travelled. We would have slide nights of their adventures. (Robyn Ross, 2018)
Always expressing a particular interest in people, Robyn specialises in portraiture. Her style and media are eclectic. Equally proficient with paint, charcoal and pencil, she draws different qualities from each medium to create a diverse output of work.
Fascinated by the personalities behind the faces, Robyn’s zest for life and interaction with people informs her work with remarkable results. Celebrity portraits include Russell Crowe, Sir Tim Rice, Bette Midler, Gordon Ramsay and Harry Connick Jr. – and, somewhat controversially – Christine Forster and her now wife, Virginia Edwards.
Considering herself to be mostly self taught, her formal art study includes periods at the Gallery School, Meadowbank and Julian Ashton Art School. Robyn’s clearly a woman proficient across the creative spectrum. Her aim; to paint and share something she’s seen in her subject, leaving her audience to further interpretation. Her art practice includes sittings, photographs and constant dialog with her subjects.
I respond to each subject differently, changing my technique and approach to match. I could never create a painting for a beautiful frame, the painting creates itself, the framing comes later. (Robyn Ross, 2018)
Robyn describes a strong connection to family and talks of being “a very emotional person.” It’s no surprise then, that for more than 20 years she’s supported numerous charities, including the Jeans for Genes art auction. Sales of her donated works have raised more than $150,000 for various organisations.
A past President of Portrait Artists Australia, Robyn’s completed several commissioned works for the University of Sydney and been Arts Ambassador for the Sir David Martin Foundation since 2009. Her works are held in public and private collections that stretch from Australia and New Zealand to England, Italy, France, Germany, Brazil and the UAE.
Invited to prepare a drawing for the Centenary of the Royal Australian Navy, her work was signed by The Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs. The artist was one of very few civilians present at the spectacular celebration held at Canberra’s Parliament House where her work was then auctioned for charity.
Robyn’s been an invited artist at more than 80 group exhibitions and various solo shows. Career highlights include, invitations to exhibit at the Australian Embassy in Washington and the First International Biennale Izmir Turkey, as a guest artist.
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Goethe Institut in germany, Robyn was invited to show one of her works in an exhibition that toured Europe in 2011. Other international exhibitions include the Biennale Contemporea Florence, Italy and ART Monaco. 2021 She was invited to create a work for the 7th Geoje Art festival, Her work titled " BIlly" has now be acquired as part of the permanent collection of the Yukeong Art Museum South Korea.
20 years ago Robyn established Hunters Hill Art Group, has run workshops for Northbridge School of Visual Arts, Charles Sturt University and Lucca, Italy, as well as various art societies.
Sought after as a guest speaker, teacher and judge, previous invitations include The Contempo Group, AGNSW; the Art Society of Canberra; Hunters Hill Art Show; Bulldust to Bitumen, Mortimore Prize; The Arthouse Hotel, and Professional Women’s Association.
Today, there’s little doubt art has always been Robyn’s calling. And with such prestigious credentials, it seems apt to leave the last word to Robyn:
A trip to St. Petersburg confirmed my love of Russian art, a connection I first felt at school.
I think I’ll always be travelling and painting, inspired by people, places, memory and the need to communicate and share what I see.
I find myself on a constant search for artistic fulfilment. Who knows? l may never truly feel fulfilled as an artist, but there’s only one way to find out: keep creating art. (Robyn Ross, 2018)