Barbara Robertson


Over the past five years my work has inspired by two separate yet seminal influences in my life: my present experience of witnessing my city’s transformation through rampant and rapid building development, and Constructivism, a one-hundred-year-old art and architectural movement that captured my imagination as a socially conscious student. My recent work addresses the impact of Seattle’s rapid growth, while staying rooted in the art historical context of Constructivism, which rejects the idea of art for art’s sake and passionately believes that art, architecture, and design can be employed consciously for positive social change, or simply to serve and support the community. At the beginning of the last century, like today, technological advances were embraced and were believed to help promote a more positive future.

We are in a very similar cultural moment today to the one the original Constructivists faced after the first World War; we believe that technological advances will eventually create a better world, but we are challenged by pervasive consumerism and a focus on personal gain, often at the expense of our own communities. In Seattle, our environment is constantly changing architecturally and thus spatially, in dramatic ways. Landmarks and other more modest historic structures are disappearing, so we no longer have them as a touchstone for our own history, our memories and our sense of cultural continuity.

The images in my drawings, paintings and animations, in part, question how imagination, geometry and structure relate to our physical, and cultural environment. How does rapid change effect our sense of community and our sense of place? I develop these ideas through mixed media works on paper, relief constructions on panel and animated films.
The works on paper and construction images are created from photos that I take of common materials such as wood, stone or brick surfaces and then print these images on lightweight Japanese paper using a large format Epson printer. Using a drawing as a framework, and acrylic painting as the base, the wood or stone paper image is then cut into shapes that form the structure of the image.
When the pandemic restrictions began in early 2020, I started to make paintings whose images have evolved into geometric structures filled with light and color. Over two years, I made twelve large, expansive paintings and fourteen small paintings, that I could immerse myself in, places invented to explore or inhabit and thus escape from our small, restricted world,. Creating my own “elsewhere,” I began each one by drawing dozens of small sketches.

It’s been over two years since the pandemic began and I continue to work on paintings and animations that focus on imaginative environments, urban geometric structures.

I wonder why and how we create the structures that we do; architectural, social, and political ones. How do the structures we imagine and then build shape our lives.