Featured Artist: Robert Kyle

Posted on November 25, 2014

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By: Michelle Quina

Robert Kyle is a Memphis-born painter who is graduating from the University of Memphis in December 2014. From November 24th-December 9th his art and the work of five other talented artists, will be on display in the Art and Communications building on the University of Memphis campus. I had the opportunity to get a sneak preview of the Young American exhibit and meet with the immensely talented Robert who explained his passion for art, thoughts on Memphis, and unique style of painting.

“For the past three years I have been creating abstraction pieces. I am interested in geometric shapes and the linear motif that nature creates, such as tentacles or veins, both of which influence the aesthetic aspect of my work.” On display in the Young American exhibit, Robert has two landscape pieces and a video progression piece.

“I have put 200 to 300 hours of work into the three pieces on display. The video project is a transition piece. It chronicles 7 to 8 paintings that I created and then painted over. I built the canvas, painted layers of different paintings, and then painted the canvas white again.”  Robert displays this piece on the original canvas that is now painted white. A video depicting the progress of the painting is projected onto the canvas and is paired with music. The paint looks as if it is moving. It is an interactive experience that makes you feel as though you are a part of Robert’s creative process.

“I created my landscape work following the video progression piece.  During the video project I would paint something awesome, but I would have to paint right over it. I wanted to paint something that I was able to keep on the canvas. The landscape work combines representational style and abstraction. I have always felt and done art differently. The landscape work combines geometric shapes and linear movement. When you are up close it looks completely different than when you step back and look at the entire picture. It has a psychedelic feel to it and there are unexpected colors, but it creates a familiar image. I like abstract work but I want people to be able to tell what my art is when they look at it.”

Robert has lived in Memphis all his life. When he decided to attend the University of Memphis Art School he wasn’t sure how he felt about staying in Memphis another four years.

“I used to feel like Memphis relied on what happened in the 50’s instead of focusing on what is happening now. Since then, I feel like that has changed. It seems as though the city of Memphis is realizing its potential. The arts and music scene is growing.”

Aside from the fact that Memphis has been on the upswing, Robert also appreciates The University of Memphis and its art program. “I am happy I stayed. The professors help their students find a sense of direction in their work. I have developed a focus. As an artist you go down a path, you can detour, but it is about growth and progression. Hopefully at the end you have found yourself.”

Robert plans to continue painting following graduation.

“I want to create pieces that have the rigor that is expected in galleries. It is important to think through what you are doing and why. I also enjoy psychedelic art. I try to balance the openness in creating art as well as the rigor of precision. I may try to sell my work at festivals but I do not want to pigeonhole myself. I don’t want art critics to look at my art and think, ‘I have seen this before’. Art is all about you. For me, a huge part of art is finding out who you are. It is a unifying experience that helps you become a whole, complete person.”

Following my conversation with Robert, I was able to see his video project and two landscape pieces up close. As someone who admittedly has not taken enough time to truly appreciate the Memphis art scene, I was stunned by the intricacy and beauty of his work. The video project looked as though the painting was alive. The rich colors in his landscape pieces were beautiful. The small geometric shapes and intricate lines create a wonderfully detailed landscape. His style is unique, but Robert intentionally tries not to limit himself. “I enjoy exploring things I don’t necessary like to better understand and appreciate what I do like.”

Robert’s work, and the work of the other students that is on display, is something you must see in person to truly appreciate. From 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on December 5th, a reception will take place at the Young American exhibit. Stop by and see the world through these artists’ eyes. You will not be disappointed.

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Posted in: Arts