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A glimpse inside Rob Sample's studio

Portraits in the attic

‘A return to order’ is the unexpected name for a show by an artist who calls himself a ‘Dis-ist’ – HOT’s Erica Smith climbs the metal ladder into Rob Sample’s painterly garret to find out more.

© Rob Sample, 2014

© Rob Sample, 2014

“People see me as an urban artist, but that’s not how I see myself. If I had to have a label, I’d be a ‘Dis-ist’ – my work fits in with anything that begins with ‘dis’ – dis-functional, dis-array, dis-order, dis-combobulated…” Rob Sample is joking, sort of – “I’ve just invented that name”, but the show’s title highlights the tension between chaos and intent in his work.

Rob Sample’s studio is (in)appropriately situated in the grimey alleyway behind the library – “Look for the door with an X on it” he said… I look for a giant red painted negative or a clumsy black crucifix splattered across the door. I can’t find it, so call him. X marks the spot, but it’s a neat silver roman numeral…

For the last decade, I have seen Sample’s paintings around town. Some people I know are lucky enough to own them – though they are dark creations to live with. When I first saw his portraits, I had no idea who the artist was. I imagined him as an old, grumpy drunk – Hastings’ answer to Francis Bacon. When I finally met Rob Sample I was shocked to discover such a young, beautiful being who embraces life – whether sailing a boat or partying hard.

© Rob Sample, 2014

Ten years on, like Dorian Gray, he’s still young and beautiful. Perhaps there is magic in those portraits. I ask him why he is drawn to paint such dark, brooding canvases. “I’m not scared of the dark side of life – it’s always there, and it’s more inspirational than painting seascapes and children”. In 2003, Sample went on a student art trip to Russia. Being an adventurer, he explored way beyond the city centre where tourists are meant to stay, and ended up in a Moscow prison cell (ask Black Shed’s curator, Kenton Lowe, for the full story). That experience changed his approach to painting.

The subject matter of Sample’s paintings are often people he knows. Steve Coleman from the wine shop in St Leonards and a drinking pal from Sidley both make appearances in his new work. “I take photos of them – sometimes in poses I’ve already worked out in my sketchbook. I’m not so concerned about replicating life-like portraits of them, but they have to have faces that interest me.”

Raw and brutal, but stripped back, ‘A return to order’ is about Rob Sample’s ongoing struggle with the creation and re-creation of what he refers to as ‘the original image’. In this work, Sample pushes the boundaries of his own experimentation in favour of his more traditional and familiar approaches to painting. “It’s the battle between leaving paint as paint and turning it into figurative elements”. He holds up a recent canvas that he’s working on for a show in Manchester to show how his paintings begin life.

Rob Sample with a work in progress

As in all his work, Sample encourages the viewer to create their own narrative, he allows the work to be viewed subjectively touching on common human experiences. Sample explores humanity and its extremes, he focuses our attention on that which is often overlooked and invites the viewer to look deeper into the absurdities and beauty of human nature.

 

 

‘A return to order’ runs from Saturday 16 August – Saturday 27 September at
The Black Shed Gallery
(off the A21 near Robertsbridge)

Unit 3b, Russet Farm, Redlands Lane, Robertsbridge, East Sussex TN32 5NG
The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am–4pm. Out of hours appointments are welcome.
Tel: 01580 881247

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Posted 16:55 Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014 In: Visual Arts

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