Robin Denevan

Q&A: Robin Denevan & Gallery Director Laura Moriarty

LM: When did you first realize that rivers were a source of inspiration for you?

RD: I spent some time on the Tuichi River in the Bolivian Amazon shortly after graduating from Art School. Sketching while drifting through the jungle forced me to draw more spontaneously. The rhythm of the passing shoreline resulted in my first ‘panoramic’ series where the imagery was continuous and repetitive. This was a departure from my illustrative and formal background. Rivers have since been a source of inspiration and escape.

LM: Your work makes me think about sustainable landscaping. It seems that you utilize the natural characteristics of materials to create matrices for uninhibited landscapes, and then allow various processes to act upon them. Would you agree that you create “natural” man-made sites?

RD: I let the materials act naturally, allowing the drips, lines, and glazes to describe a space rather than rendering with a brush. The landscapes I draw from are both natural and man-made. I’m interested in rivers, deltas, and flood plains; landscapes that are inundated and sculpted by water.

LM: When did you first realize that rivers were a source of inspiration for you?

RD: I spent some time on the Tuichi River in the Bolivian Amazon shortly after graduating from Art School. Sketching while drifting through the jungle forced me to draw more spontaneously. The rhythm of the passing shoreline resulted in my first ‘panoramic’ series where the imagery was continuous and repetitive. This was a departure from my illustrative and formal background. Rivers have since been a source of inspiration and escape.

LM: How important is research and field study to your art practice?

RD: All my work is based on landscapes I sketch while traveling. My paintings are not imagined or derived from photos. I’ve hired bush pilots to fly over the Brazilian Amazon and the San Juan Islands. A translator and driver were imperative to sketch the bends of the Yangtze. From the leg rowers of Burma to the dugout canoes of the Orinoco Delta I’ve gone to great lengths to gather the imagery necessary to paint. My artwork was once a byproduct of traveling but now I seek out locations best suited for my work.

LM: Is part of your goal to impart the memory and feel of a place?

RD: My goal is to impart the memory and feel of place, not “a” place. Though the locations I paint are very specific and personal to me, it is not my intention for them to be recognized for their geography. The landscape is familiar to the viewer independent of its origin.

LM: What is on the horizon for you and your work?

RD: I am currently working on a series of aerial perspective encaustic paintings and an ongoing series of works on steel and aluminum. I continue to paint and exhibit in San Francisco.

ARTIST STATEMENT

Robin Denevan’s recent paintings of the Amazon River were created from sketches done from the cockpit of a Cessna. In an effort to push the perspective of his landscapes, these latest works often have a high horizon. The paintings emphasize the scale of the basin and the serpentine nature of the river and her tributaries. Taking advantage of the seasonal high waters, his work also explores the jungle canopy emphasizing the viewpoint from the river surface. This body of work is a continuation on the theme of deltas, flood plains, and the world’s great rivers.

Denevan has been working with encaustic for over a decade. His process begins with drawings of the exotic landscapes he visits which are the source material for his paintings once he has returned home to his studio in San Francisco. The paintings are on canvas stretched over a wood panel, which provides a rigid and porous surface. Denevan melts resin and beeswax together and applies it with a brush. His paintings have many layers of wax and oil paint. He continually adds materials and then removes them with solvents, sandpaper, and a variety of sharp tools. The finished work is both luminescent and beautifully textured.