Thursday, June 22, 2017

A day with abstract artist Robyn Andrews

A day with abstract artist Robyn Andrews

Robyn Andrews

It took me fifteen minutes fiddling with my out-of-data cell phone and forty more to get to where I needed to be to meet abstract artist Robyn Andrews for an early lunch. I was late, but she graciously welcomed me with open arms, and we chatted almost non-stop about our respective art, children, and food preferences. We had met about a month ago during the Resistance art show at The Union in Jacksonville, Florida, where she had sparked my curiosity about her work. We had set up a lunch date at Uptown Kitchen and Bar and she offered to show me around her solo exhibition called Change and Permanence, showing several abstract series at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum. To top off the afternoon, she invited me to her studio in one of the buildings of the CoRK Arts District’s many warehouses. Both these venues are also in Jacksonville, Florida. 

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum

Robyn Andrews is the new kid on the art-block. After recently having left a physically and emotionally abusive relationship, she needed time and means to work through the various levels of emotional impact on her psyche and life. Deeply engaged with her subconscious and complex dreams, she started creating her stark and often geometrical abstracts with acrylics, oils, and mix her media freely when called for. Inspired by Greek Mythology and the philosophy of human nature and centuries tried diction of ancient philosophers like Plato, she shares her most inner pain with us through her perceptions and uses color and composition to interactively stimulate emotional reactions of the viewer.

 Robyn recently studied at the Fare Pittura Atelier e Scuola d’Arte in Milan, Italy under the personal direction of master watercolorist and oil painter Francesco Fontana. Apart from the odd lone piece of abstract mastery, she prefers to work in series of three or five harmonizing panels to emphasize her stories and accounts of human suffering. The venue of her solo exhibition, running through May and June of this year, is a force of architectural nature on its own and a suitably sultry locale for explorations of the human essentialities of being.

Inside view Karpeles - The Reflections series below

            One of ten such museums in the United States, the Karpeles Manuscript Museum in Jacksonville, located at 101 West 1st Street (formerly 1116 North Laura Street), was constructed in 1921 and mostly used by the First Church of Christ Scientists. The building was constructed in Neo-Classical style with smooth Doric columns, wide entry steps, and an imposing Greek architecture-style fa├žade. In 1992 the congregation sold the building to David Karpeles, a former math professor who had made millions investing in real estate and then taken up manuscript collecting. In 1983 he began opening museums across the country to house his collections which are now one of the largest in the world. The Jacksonville museum features three or four exhibits a year, mostly from the private collection of David and his wife Marsha Karpeles’ collections. The museum also exhibits material from other collectors. The archives include literature, science, religion, history, and art. Throughout the year, artists of various disciplines are invited to exhibit their work either in solo or group shows. In April of this year, the board invited Robyn Andrews to hold her solo exhibition at the museum. She exhibits five series and a few large, single canvasses in her show titled Change and Permanence. 

The Dissociation series
Dissociation II

            Robyn led me through the exposition going clockwise around the room. Since her work is based on personal experience and philosophically based stories, she had made a map for the viewer with brief explanations of the influences and thought-trails leading up to the final work. In Change and Permanence, Robyn mostly explores the philosophies of Plato. Within four of the five series, she conveys abstract representations of rational platonic concepts like his Theory of Good and Evil, where the essence of being is goodness, or The Good, in which virtues provide the right relationship between all that exists and the mind of the Divine and where evil is simply the absence of The Good and thus described as immoral. In her “The Dissociation” series, Robyn addresses her personal tribulations relating to the absence of good and explain her frequently occurring dissociative episodes, which she translates into geometrical basics and textured black on white. 

From The Trilogy of the Indfinite Dyad series

            Walking on, we see her “Trilogy of the Indefinite Dyad” series. She expresses her view on the totality of reality derived from the interaction of multiple realities, where the more chaotic something is, the stronger the presence of the Indefinite Dyad is. Throughout her work, Robyn explores Plato’s Theory of Forms, or Ideas, where non-physical forms represent the most accurate reality, and she makes a brave attempt to communicate her existential reflections during her recovery through her series called “The Divided Line“. In five panels, she takes up the visible and intelligible realms of the psyche divided into four consecutive stages: conjecture, belief, thought, and understanding. The fifth panel represents the sum of all these parts in an off-centered perspective of squares. 

The Divided Line series


Conjecture and Form

            Robyn prefers to work mostly with primary and secondary colors, which she decisively renders in prismatic and saturated values. When entering the room, it is immediately noticeable, that she has a strong fondness for reds and oranges. Each individual piece is laden with symbolism, mainly understood through her excellent storytelling and relay of her personal pain and musings on reality and emphasized by the flaming hues. Although Robyn feels a deep connection with the multitude of platonic theories and allegories, she is very much a contemporary abstractist and clearly understands the potential effects of creating art, harmonizing colors, and using hand-eye coordination on the subconscious of a person. 

Robyn at work in her CoRK Arts District Studio

            One of her larger panels called "Mother, A Study of Death in Red and Blue," for which she won an Honorable Mention in the Art-N-Jax Juried Art Show of November, 2016, is proof of such psychology at work. When she was a young child, a teacher concluded, based on a blue and red crayon drawing she had made, that she had a deep hatred for her mother; words that had a deep impact on Robyn for a large part of her life. When her mother passed away in 2002, she not only came to grips with the knowledge that she, in fact, did not hate her mother, but also that she can put the colors red and blue together however she right-well pleases. This new and assertive realization also echoes through in the work that she showed me at her studio, where she took me next.

Mother: A Study of Death in Red and Blue - Honorable Mention Art-N-Jax, 2016

In 2015, Robyn was fortunate enough to bypass the long waiting lists to become a resident artist of CoRK Arts District Studios by occupying the vacated space of a close friend. CoRK consists of a community of seventy artists in working studios and exhibition spaces housed in abandoned warehouses in Jacksonville, Florida. The studios are closed to the public, except for special shows, exhibitions, and an annual open house in November. After she gave me the tour, she visibly relaxes in her personal surroundings and tells me more about her mother and grandmother. Tubes of paint, pots and jars of used brushes, dried up palettes, and a vast variety of cans and bottles with a multitude of medium substances are spread around the room. An old but comfortable divan protrudes into the room. Old work is covering the walls and I study them while listening to Robyn telling me some of their history. The bustling of other artists in the building is quite present, so she puts on some music. New oeuvre is abundantly in the making, and it involves paint on nudes and printing bodies on canvas. It is exciting to see the process in various stages of progress. We hug, promise to see each other again, I thank her for everything and leave. The art-block can definitely expect many more inspirational creations from his small but emotionally courageous woman and artist.

For more information:

Robyn Andrews website:

Change and Permanence - Solo Exhibition Robyn Andrews

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum

101 W. 1st Street

Jacksonville, FL 32206

Closing Reception Friday, June 23rd, 2017 from 5-8pm


Andrews, Robyn. Artist, CoRK Arts District. <>.                                    <>. Photographs for this article.

Cerri-Bartels, Sylvia. Photographs for this article.

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museums. The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museums.                                               RAIN. Web. 20 June 2017.

Plato. Republic. Trans. Robin Waterfield. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. Print.

Wikipedia contributors. "Plato's unwritten doctrines." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.                                   Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 14 Dec. 2016. Web. 20 June 2017