Lynne Roebuck on the commercialisation of fine art

Lynne Roebuck’s art is “about the impressions of landscapes we carry with us”. Roebuck specialises in limited edition original prints, which consistently suggest a crashing anger and turbulence reflected in the human condition. Her print ‘Dark Water Clash’ is inspired by a stormy collision of waves in deep water; the rich, dark ocean blue and tepid green subtly mix together in the linoprint, whilst the semi-transparent inks overlay to convey the fine mist boiling foam generates.

But how does Roebuck effectively marry the nebulousness of human experience and perception with the power of the landscape in her prints? “I use printmaking as my medium because I feel it offers all sorts of potential creative possibilities,” Roebuck explains. “The print making process deals with successions of images; makes indentations into a surface, called ‘impressions’… it also breaks down visual information into layers and involves concepts such as registration and miss-registration, for example.”

She sees her striking colour combinations as arising “from direct observation – ‘sampled’ you could say. People have commented on the amount of blue this has resulted in.” She stresses that her concentration is on the cohesion of the creative process rather than the potential perceptions of her viewers: “I’ve not pondered if the colour combinations present melancholia or uplight. I see them instead as entirely descriptive. I intervene in the colours to ensure that they are cohesive, rather than to manipulate their emotional aspects at this time.”

What does Roebuck prioritise as her primary inspiration, however: the a prior landscape picture, or the a posteriori human perception? Do they form a fusion through her prints? “My primary inspiration is the human experience of (external) reality, or: ‘reality’ as it manifests within,” Roebuck emphasises. “I’ve found myself using the more straightforward phrase: ‘landscape as we feel it to be’ to describe my current work.”

And where is the root of this inspiration for Roebuck? She cites the difficulty of defining inspiration but acknowledges the changes in her attitude as she grows older: “Why this is my primary inspiration I don’t know. Perhaps moving from suburbia to the countryside at a key point in my childhood was pivotal. Maybe my increasing years increase the sense of preciousness of time experiencing the physical world. Perhaps what has come with my maturity is more political, as I observe how modern UK society becomes one dimensional (the social orbit) and anaesthetised from physical reality, with the myriad of implications that has.” She adds: “I suspect all three contribute.”

Roebuck considers human perception, during the creative process and when someone views her end product, as the main thrust of her work, however. “It’s our ‘experience’ which dominates, not the place,” she asserts. “It profoundly defines our inner life… An aspect I’m particularly interested in at the moment is the idea of the ‘idyllic’ place.” She enthuses: “How we fix stories, meaning and what we call a ‘sense-of-place’ to locations as a way, I suggest, of both keeping our vivid inner life connected to outside reality and a way of identifying with something ‘worth having’… [It’s] rooted in primal survival perhaps. Though free from many of the survival concerns of earlier generations, people’s relationship with physical places is as important as ever and far more complex than my amateur theorising can ever truly pin down… but there is to me, I fear, a creeping disconnection from external reality and isolation in inner reality. In some ways, I’d suggest, it’s not de-personalisation, but over-personalisation. I hope my work makes visible (communicates) aspects of the invisible layer overlaid on the physical world, a layer unique to each of us, yet common to us all.”

How does Roebuck thus elucidate her message and retain her artistic integrity in an increasingly insular world? “My understanding is that artistic integrity is being honest, being whole and unified. Every artist, given creativity, is Rhizomatic, and has to deal with the entirely artistic challenge of where the line is between wholeness and unity, versus shapelessness and discord.”

How does Roebuck approach the challenges of commercialisation whilst retaining her artistic integrity? She admits: “I have to sell work, but I’ve chosen not to sell direct. This is because I want to spend as much time as possible producing art, but I feel the decision was also an instinctive one seeking a distance from commercial concerns too.”

She continues in expressing her dissatisfaction with the industry: “If my observations are correct about parts of the arts industry structuring itself around a direct selling model then commercialism is surely being brought right into the artist’s studio and artistic integrity becomes a real issue – perhaps this is why I encounter so much discussion about it.” But does it affect her work? “Personally, I don’t want commercialism in my studio at all,” she says, “and I hope I’ve made it easier to maintain an integrity by my choice, though I may have made it harder to establish my practice if everything is structured otherwise. I should say that my feelings about direct selling are a personal preference, not a judgement – I’m sure many direct selling artists manage their artistic integrity well despite their involvement in selling activity and I can only express admiration.”

Roebuck concludes on a note of reluctant acceptance: “I’m not going to claim that my work is entirely unaffected, this would be naïve, self-deluded, even dishonest. How my work is being effected, that I’m aware of, is I feel largely benign though, because I’m not privy to why precisely it sells. Perceptions… do trouble me. With so much commercialism, I fear it becomes more likely others will assume commercial intent, a lack of artistic integrity and infer shallowness.”

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