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Slingsby, Robert

Robert Slingsby was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1955. He discovered as a small child both his
talent for drawing and his affinity for Africa in the form of rock-art and artefacts. After being an artist for
thirty years, there are few that can rival his focus, dedication and dynamism in the production of art.

By the time Robert left school he was ready to have his first solo exhibition at a prestigious gallery.
Against a background of disturbing politics and a need to further his education he left for Holland to
study at the Vrije Akademie in Den Haag for five years. He held over twenty one solo exhibitions in
Holland during his time there.

Over the decades various phases in his art can be recognized. Initially he may have been regarded as
a surrealist, inspired by the likes of Salvador Dali. Following that was a period of Hyperrealism. Back
in Africa he was able to rekindle his love of the African desert and rock art. Robert is an articulate,
colourful and knowledgeable man, whose creative courage has even influenced the style of everything
he surrounds himself with. Robert’s work is in collections, both public and private worldwide.

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Robert Slingsby

Robert Slingsbly is truly an artist of our time and beyond his time; his career has spanned over three decades in which he has constantly worked to find the truth in the world he has evolved in through his paintings and sculpture.

To understand Roberts work he invites his audience to trace their roots back to the ancients and even further, to the beginning of man and their first engravings on rocks. He has documented these original symbols and geometric spiral depictions by recording their history and the mystery behind them in his powerful paintings. Roberts work is full of energy and was originally portrayed in his blatant use of colour and thickness of paint allowing the surface to be engraved so that every line led you into the depth of his painting asking you to explore the mystery behind the conception of the geometric spirals and brutal but ever evolving beautiful Africa which he loves so much.

Having worked with Robert Slingsby over a number of years it has been an academic journey watching his work take its rightful place on the World Art Stage. His current paintings continue along the same path but have advanced in subject, style and technique."


Sandie Lowry, Square One Gallery, London


With his many international exhibitions, a great deal of travelling had been necessary. In the current climate of global insecurity and resulting from terrorist threats, the emergence of a paranoid society is unavoidably prevalent. He is constantly confronted with surveillance at airports and in the streets, most often without our awareness. Accompanying the reality of being constantly observed was the feeling of being exposed. The current body of work for his forthcoming show in London titled "Exposed" he deals with these ambiguities, confrontations with "big brother" threats real or perceived and the influence of a digital era where we seldom question the process, willingly allowing conscienceless monitoring of our lives through sinister robotic systems. The reference to being exposed through the use of naked bodies is to express the feeling of invasion of privacy and vulnerability to being absorbed into a way of life that is beyond our control. The imagery uses familiar objects such as aeroplanes, suitcases and nudes in a setting in the midst of conveyer belts, satellites and surveillance equipment.

Biography

After thirty years of being an artist, there are few that can rival his focus, dedication and dynamism in the production of art. The story starts decades ago, when Robert discovered as a small child both his talent for drawing and his affinity for Africa in the form of rock-art and artefacts.

By time Robert left school, he was ready to have his first one-man exhibition at a prestigious gallery. Against a background of disturbing politics and a need to further his art education, he left for Holland to study at the Vrije Akademie in Den Haag for five years. Although these were not easy years for a South African in Holland due to the total cultural boycott of South Africans, Robert nevertheless managed to carve out the beginnings of a highly successful career there. With over twenty one-man exhibitions to his credit in this highly art literate society, he returned to South Africa, which was in the throws of a xenophobic and hometown nepotistic outlook in the arts. That meant that Robert, who had not studied at home, would never be welcomed into the fold of the academic dominated art world, whose interests he was not seen to represent.


Again, despite the odds, he managed to further what was now clearly the beginning of a long career as an artist. Even from those early days, he seemed to be at the forefront of trends. As has been said about him, "This is an artist who will never be trendy, as he is always ahead of the trend." For example, whilst Robert conveyed his anti-apartheid sentiments through his art in Holland, it was considered dangerous & simply not done by the artists of the day. By time it was politically correct to indulge in political art, Robert had moved on to examine the ancient art of Africa through his art.


Over the decades various phases in his art can be recognised. Initially he may have been regarded as a surrealist, inspired by the likes of Salvador Dali. Following that was a period of hyperrealism, where he was acknowledged as being one of Holland's top "Fyn-schilders". The subject matter at this time included a Slingsby character called a ballman. This character was used to portray the greed and vulgarity of mankind. The ballman evolved into his compartmentalised face period. Inspired by Picasso, it can actually be identified as a feature of his art that is always present in some way or another. Back in Africa, Robert was able to rekindle his love of the African desert and rock art. He embarked on the beginning of what was to be countless field trips where he photographically recorded the rock art of the Richtersveld. It was inevitable that some day it would intrude into his work. This point in time was reached virtually overnight, probably the most dramatic swing from one period to the next. For many years, Robert's art was devoted to the petroglyph images, rendered as he imagined the mind of the ancients may have seen these images in altered states of consciousness. Just as it was inevitable his art would encompass this art form, so it was inevitable that he would seek an explanation for these mysterious non-figurative engravings that so cunningly always avoided the obvious in their design.


This led him on a journey that will last his lifetime. Although his work has evolved as he has developed his own alphabet of petroglyphs through his immense knowledge of the subject, the core of the inspiration behind his works remains the story on the rocks. In order to understand, he has travelled to many parts of the world looking at other rock engravings. He has also taken this journey much further through his research by voracious reading on the subject. The journey has included not just images on rocks but ancient texts and their various interpretations. As literature by different authors becomes available, so his understanding deepens and grows.


The dynamism and depth of his art has led him to be recognised by academics and galleriests worldwide. He has been invited to participate in exhibitions as far afield as United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Hong Kong and many parts of Europe. His work has proved to be a dialogue that is universally accepted. Besides the important exhibitions that Slingsby has participated in over the years, there have been other important markers in his career. He is included in the current textbook that is part of the curriculum for all school art students. He is acknowledged in numerous academic books on Southern African rock art for his contribution in the recording of rock-art & its influence in his art. He has become a sought after artist by students doing projects on South African artists. An enormous petroglyph painting forms a permanent, main display at the William Humphries Museum in Kimberly. He has facilitated many workshops in both painting and sculpting techniques for local NGO's. He has raised the highest figure ever attained by a living South African artist through the auction of an artwork of his for the benefit of the Nelson Mandela Mocambique Flood Fund. He has forged international ties with the European Art Foundation through Sir Richard Demarco and his personal interest in Robert's art. This has led to opportunities such as being the first South African artist in twenty-seven years to be invited to exhibit a one-man exhibition at the Edinburgh Festival.


Robert is an articulate, colourful and knowledgeable man, whose creative courage has even influenced the style of everything he surrounds himself with. This has made him and his home a sought after subject for books on homes, magazines and television such as CNN Arts club and the French photojournalist Solvi dos Santos. Robert is in collections, both public and private worldwide. These include a variety of collections such as the Deutshe Bank, Department of Foreign Affairs, Investec, SASOL, Pietersburg Art Museum, Bundesbank in Germany, South African Reserve Bank, Pepsico, Witwatersrand University Collection and the personal collection of the famous family of Wyeth artists, amongst many others.


Below is a list of the most important exhibitions to date:


2001
Air Gallery, London
Richard Demarco - On the Road to Meikle Seggie, as part of the Venice Bienale

2000
Richard Demarco - On the Road to Meikle Seggie
Edinburgh City Art Gallery, Edinburgh
HANOVER EXPO 2000: GERMANY
SA Pavilion-"Feranani-Together towards the African Century
Stanley Picker Gallery, Kingston University, Kingston-upon-Thames, U. K.
YPO UNIVERSITY 2000
Collaborative painting of Slingsby raises $250 000.00

1999
Osborne Gallery, London, England
Bourne Fine Art, Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh Festival

1998
"Art Beyond Borders" Rathaus, Augsburg, Germany
Lisbon Expo, Lisbon, Portugal
Primart, Cape Town, South Africa

1997
Code Red, Perth, Australia

1996
Primart, Cape Town, South Africa
Robben Island Memorial Sculpture, Robben Island, South Africa

1994
World Convention Centre, Singapore
World Trade Centre, Hong Kong

1991
William Humphries Art Museum, Kimberly, South Africa

1990
Gallery International, Cape Town, South Africa

1989
Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
Natalie Knight Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

1985
"Tributaries", For BMW R.S.A. touring Germany

1983
Gowlett Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

1982
Gowlett Gallery, Cape Town South Africa
Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

1981
Toys, Den Haag, Holland
La Tertulia, Amsterdam, Holland

1980
Sheraton Hotel, Amsterdam, Holland

1979
Posthoorn, Den Haag, Holland

1978
Gallery Galjoen, S'Hertogenboch, Holland
Gallery '77, Ijsselstein, Holland
Nederlandse Fijnschilders, t'Kunsthuis, V H Ooste, Holland
Gallery Ploemp, Delft, Holland

1976
Gallery International, Cape Town, South Africa


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