Fine Art

Grace Visits: Artist Robin Tewes

This August, our frequent arts contributor and artist herself Grace Graupe-Pillard is making studio calls. This week she shares with us her visit to the studio of the artist Robin Tewes, whose work deals with issues of war, religion, feminism, or the harsh and glorious surprises that life throws at us.

Robin Tewes’s artwork is drawn from personal life experiences that are transformed into magical visual “parables.” Her narrative paintings penetrate and expose the political and social hypocrisies of society through the prism of humor, beauty and incisive intellect. Whether dealing with issues of war, religion, feminism, or the harsh and glorious surprises that life throws at us, Tewes’ visual responses reveal trenchant insights wrapped in a cocoon of empathy. At the same time, the artist invites the viewer to question his/her own beliefs. Over the years she has experimented with various techniques and mediums in her pursuit of enriching and expanding centuries old dialogues artists have had with the figurative painting tradition.

Rooms — intimate spaces of one’s own design, private and often secret, walled off from the outside world — figure dominantly in Tewes’ paintings and drawings. Working in series, i.e., Rooms With People, Rooms Without People, she frequently incorporates family members, transmuting her subjects into phantasmagoric fables that reflect on contemporary life. Tewes makes clear that an enclosure’s isolation is illusionary. One is never alone, words rush in and are scratched onto walls, shifting the meaning of the paintings. Her minimally spare “rooms” usually contain windows, doors and hallways giving us glimpses of the fluidity of entry and exit. In these works,  disengagement from societal interaction is not possible, a human presence is always palpable.

Faith, 26x22, 2007 oil on birch panelFaith, 26″ x 22″, oil/birch panel, 2007.

In Fair Game two young girls are huddled in a closet, oblivious to the confining space, engrossed in the comfort of their childhood games and toys, feeling protected in the airless environment of nostalgia. The painting Faith depicts a young boy, arms outstretched collapsed on a pristine, unruffled bed. A ghost of a cross behind him floats in a sea of scribbled handwriting, creating an unearthly light, which covers his torso.

Revision #1 Kitchen 22x18 2002Revision #1 Kitchen, 22″ x 18″, oil/birch panel, 2002.

Revision #1 Kitchen delineates the ghost of a disembodied woman cooking in a rock solid wood kitchen; the blue sky and clouds peeking through the roof and window are so very near, yet escape is far off in the distance. The hallucinatory vision of a woman melting into her space is heartbreaking. Tewes has characterized these paintings as “domestic politics.”

The artist also paints “public spaces” — larger environments such as Substitute, a depiction of a movie theater with rows upon rows of empty seats as blue-hued as the solitariness of abandonment. Projected onto the wide screen is an image of camouflaged children playing, their abstracted forms conflated with the shrouds of war. The audience is missing; there is no one to witness a darkly prophetic future.

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  • Joan Reutershan September 16, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    Robin Tewes work is so rich with psychological, social, political insights–all presented in gorgeous paint. The comments due them justice. Congratulations to both!

  • Grace Graupe-Pillard September 1, 2016 at 9:20 am

    I really appreciate your comments- Merle,Andrea,June and Patricia. Thank you!

  • Andrea September 1, 2016 at 7:47 am

    Robins work is beautiful and would love to see more up close and in person! Thank you Grace for your insightful critique ! Please continue to review art- it is a passion of mine and obviously of yours too!

  • Grace Graupe-Pillard August 31, 2016 at 7:33 pm

    Thank you Judith and Phyllis – much appreciated.

  • Merle Temkin August 31, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    I love Robin Tewes’s paintings and Grace’s thoughts written under each of the paintings was particularly interesting. Congratulations to you both.

  • June Seligman August 31, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Very well written article about a perceptive artist whose paintings say so much.

  • Patricia Meko August 31, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Great article. Love the paintings!

  • Merle Temkin August 31, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    I love these paintings by Robin Tewes and under each of them, the perceptive comments by Grace. Lovely!

  • Phyllis Rosser August 31, 2016 at 10:35 am

    Wonder paintings. I love the use of realism to create surrealism. Beautiful, clear writing.

  • Judith henry August 31, 2016 at 8:48 am

    Wonderful article on a fascinating artist.