Lovejoy creates bold paintings that express his love of puns, interesting absurdities, or the power of symbols, and sometimes incorporate a jolt or surprise. Depicted is a look at people or events, gently persuading viewers into seeing the world from a different, or unexpected, viewpoint.
What sort of art critic are you? Or, asked differently, who is your favorite art critic?
I am the worst kind of art critic: dogmatic, prejudiced, changeable and easily amazed by something new and interesting. I have no favorite critic, since I can make up my own mind about a painting or any piece of art. I would rather trust a humble guide, someone to show me the way in the realm of art, than a self-important critic. I love art that slots into that space in our brains which makes us say, “I wish I had done that”.
What role does history play in your work?
Everything I have ever smelled, seen, heard, tasted or felt plays into my work, as well as anything I have ever read. How can that not be true for any of us? We are all products of our own country, language, situation and times. I am sure that, had I grown up in another country, my references, historical or otherwise, would have been different. It is hard to make pretty pictures with the bullets flying past your ear or to write the Great American Novel if the baby is starving. Circumstances change the way we view things. Picasso used a certain blue because it was cheap; Warhol latched on to screen-printing because it is a quick and easy way to reproduce an image. When the Church held power, artists painted Madonnas; when the wealthy called the shots, portraits glorifying their status appeared from the end of the artist’s brush.
Are there any features of your work that are discomforting, for yourself or your viewer?
Very few of the images I make are discomforting to either the viewer or to me but I hope that some of the references or connotations are slightly unsettling. Sometimes I wish to provoke some thoughtful exchange or challenge a fixed view.
What aspects of contemporary art would you change, if you could?
I would include many more artists as notable, worth discussion and valued than just those in the “star system”. I would ignore factory made art, poorly made art and art that just relies on novelty for its impact. (See answer to Q1!) If art is merely about what happens to be current, then art has died. Art about itself is as circular and pointless as a snake eating its own tail.
How did you arrive at the structure of your work?
So much of what I produce has a literary or word basis — there is endless fun to be had at the expense of language. I also allow humor and a certain political viewpoint into my work. Symbols are powerful elements that compress a lot of unnecessary explanation; a short-hand, as it were. I like to use symbols along with a honed-down image with as much visual superfluity eliminated and then cap it with an apposite title. “Less is more”, except in the execution and there you have me cornered, more or less. I do care about the craftsmanship of the finished “product”: I do not dash things off or churn them out. The preparation takes time; the making takes time.
What does it mean to you to be an artist living and working in Sarasota, FL?
It is gratifying to be in a place that has a history of art appreciation and values having artists around. But wouldn’t it have been handy to have studied at Ringling College of Art? The weather is conducive to wearing shorts all year round and the paint certainly dries fast here!
How do you see the societal role of the artist evolving?
Crowns of jewels will be placed on our heads and gold in our hands. We will walk through the world in fine clothing, loved and lauded. Our paths will be strewn with flowers and our food will be of the finest.
Some artists will necessarily be outsiders, some as anonymous as an accountant walking the streets of any city and yet others would be better unseen and unheard.
I see the future as either of those or just the way things are right now, pretty much. Fame always beckons, and a profit is not without honor especially in his own bank account.
How important do you think the discourse of contemporary art is?
It all depends on who is saying what. I have a great respect for artists who are open in their discussions and approach. I would appreciate more honesty in discussions of art. Give me the facts. Give me reasoned and plausible explanations. Illuminate; don’t obfuscate, help me understand. That should be enough and a worthy goal.
One of the most complicated aspects of being an art maker is the “Life Work” balance: making important decisions on when to start and when to stop and where to separate things. Do you have any advice for other artists, based on your own methodology, on how to balance a life’s work?
I can offer little advice to other artists. We all have to work out the ideal balance for ourselves. I am still pursuing that golden dream.
How important do you think authority is in contemporary art now?
Contemporary art is a commodity much like gold or pork bellies and if someone can make a profit out of it, then the art will be seen to be worthy; you can’t argue with the market. Do I believe that? No, but many do. It’s the difference between price and value.
I have been to art museums where a horrible consensus pervades; one museum is very much like another. I am looking for opinion. If the director believes that art died in 1920, then give me that view. Another may think that Warhol was a worthless commercial hack. Then give me that view. I want to be surprised; I want to be challenged. Who decides that this artist enters the canon and that one does not? Isn’t there room for a multiplicity of views and opinions?
You can learn more about the artist by viewing his website – www.robertlovejoy.com