Marja-Leena Rathje
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more Robert Young

Over five years ago I wrote about BC artist Robert Young and his visit to the printmaking studio at Capilano University. Please read that article then come back here.

Last week by an odd chance, Robert and I had a lovely email conversation. He had not seen that early post I wrote about him and had some nice things to say including this: You may be interested to know that the print reproduced in your article contains a black and white landscape image which I made at art school in England and which is partly derived/inspired by Akseli Gallen-Kallela. This certainly surprised and delighted me as I had researched and written a major portion of my written thesis for my BFA Honours on this famous Finnish artist.

I've seen and admired Robert Young's work here and there over the years and most recently in 2009 at the Burnaby Art Gallery. In researching for this post, I came across an excellent and insightful review by Robin Laurence of that BAG exhibition.

So I was sad to learn from him that I had missed his major retrospective in 2011. He has kindly given me permission to use his images and exhibition information to update us on some of his recent work.

This is from the Evergreen Cultural Centre's website:


Mystique Povera, 2008-09, egg tempera, acrylic and oil on linen. 48 x 59 inches. Collection of the Artist

Robert Young: Lacunarian Picturing
June 18 - September 3, 2011

The Art Gallery at Evergreen, in partnership with the Simon Fraser University Gallery, is pleased to present Lacunarian Picturing, a Robert Young retrospective exhibition. The Vancouver artist, born in 1938, has produced art for most of his adult life and continues to work from his home studio.

The Art Gallery at Evergreen will focus on a chronological exploration of Young's paintings while the SFU Gallery will focus on Young's depictions of architecture and interior spaces. On display will be works ranging from the 1970's, to his much-debated Tart, 1993 from the Vancouver Art Gallery Permanent Collection, to his most recent painting from this year titled, Lacunarian Picture, 2011. (more...)

Then a year later came his Unveiling of Axis Mundi:


LEFT: Lacunarian Picture, 2011. RIGHT: Axis Mundi, 2012, acrylic, egg tempera and oil on linen, 152.4 x 121.9 cm. Collection of the Artist

[At last year's exhibition] the signature work showcased at the Art Gallery at Evergreen was Lacunarian Picture, a work in progress that Young began specifically for the exhibition in Coquitlam. Now, over one year later, the work is completed and it gives us great pleasure to unveil it here at Evergreen Cultural Centre.

I understand the title changed from Lacunarian Picture to Axis Mundi and you can see both versions above. I wish we could view the work larger in order to see all the details full of stories, so typical of his work. Also, do read Robert Young's statement (pdf) found on that page. I think it gives fascinating insight into his artistic and thematic process. It is something I can identify with in some of my work where I do not always know what it will be about until it is done. I'm sure some other artists experience that too.

Last but not least, when I asked if he was still painting, he wrote: Oh yes, still painting and doing my best work.... He still follows his own path, true to himself, and is an inspiration for all artists, especially for those of us 'getting on in years'.

Added MARCH 4th morning: Robert Young has just told me that his work can be seen at the Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art Database. His page is here. Excellent, I had forgotten about this site! (But why did a general internet search of the artist's name not come up with this site?)

More later in the day: I have just spent an hour browsing through Robert's work on this site - wow! The images can all be viewed larger. Do especially have another look at Axis Mundi, the very last one! I also love his famous Tart. Enjoy!

Marja-Leena | 03/03/2013 | 9 comments
themes: Art Exhibitions, Being an Artist, Other artists


Marja-Leena, your last post on Robert Young was from before I started reading blogs, and so I was pleased to be able to catch up with it. The work looks interesting, multi-layered and evocative - frustrating that one cannot see it full size, because I think it probably needs to be seen face to face for a proper appreciation.

I like your introductions to other artists. It's too bad the images don't expand... Should like to look into some of those little facets of "Axis Mundi."

Certainly not least! I really have thought a lot about writers and artists who continue on late in life--perhaps I'm wrong, but it seems more common among visual artists. People like Yeats and Melville and Hardy are somewhat rare, and novelists seem to complain of diminution of powers. Hardy certainly began and ended as a poet.

Olga, I'm glad you found the earlier article interesting. Yes, Young's work does need to be seen larger, very much larger for it is very detailed with many literary and artistic references. I think he needs a web site!

Marly, glad you like meeting some of the other artists that I meet or find and write about. Young's little facets do intrigue and make you want to see closer.

I too think a lot about artists and their drive to keep on creating all their lives. Some do slow down but there is no stopping. But there are lots of writers who keep on going on too! I wonder how many are just not well known because they don't show or get published. Robert Young, of course, is not in that category.

I just read your very nice 2007 post about Robert Young but it's a bit too late for me to visit the other links this evening. I'm especially curious to see his Axis Mundi but I'm sure to find much more of interest.

As far as artists slowing down, I look back and realize I was never that fast to begin with.

Susan, I hope you enjoy the other links sometime. Heh, but you've speeded up!

Has he talked about "Axis Mundi" in an interview, etc.? Just saw the bigger version...

Marly, I'm not aware of an interview. He does say a few words in his statement, ie. the PDF link. It would be great to learn more.

Wouldn't that be a fun thing to do? A little mini-interview about the piece...

Marly, oh yes! Perhaps an opportunity will come up....