An early practitioner of the principles of California’s Light & Space ethos, Roberts has eschewed the customarily synthetic, modern materials and dimensional installations common to the movement and instead uses some of the oldest and most traditional art-making instruments available: paint and canvas. This gesture away from new, fabricated materials deemphasizes the sensuousness of modern industrial enterprise and signals instead an emphasis on the perceptual effects of light as mixed with pigment, and contained within a painting.
On first glance, these images’ balanced gradations are almost imperceptible in their subtlety. Once the viewer slows down to the works’ required patience, their surfaces are revealed to have been meticulously constructed with countless thin layers of paint in an array of tones, producing a glowing effect as if the canvases themselves were radiating from within. Roberts’ latest works range from very pale to almost black; they all depict faintly receding planes that look to our eye to be translucent, and from under which there appears to be a murmur of glowing light. The effect is a series of paintings that are illusory and hypnotic.
It may seem to be about light and space, light and surface. But what becomes necessary is time. This is not a situation where what you see is what you get. What is perceived in the first few seconds is different than what you see ten seconds later or two hours later when the light in the room has changed or you are standing at a different angle, different distance. If one invests the time, the painting becomes many paintings. My earliest work involved special lights and materials but that frequently resulted in the static, predictable state I was trying to avoid. I went back to paint and brush to try to achieve paintings that are in a state of flux as light changes through the course of a day. They can have as many as one hundred coats to achieve the effects and gradients I’m striving for. It takes a very long time to make one of these paintings that will even surprise me. Maybe it’s not about time or perception but about patience.