Brigus Mark, Brigus, Newfoundland, July 12, 2007

Brigus Mark, Brigus, Newfoundland, July 12, 2007

Index catalogue fore-edge treatment

Index catalogue fore-edge treatment

Index installation, Owens Art Gallery, Mount Allison University, Sackville, NB, 2015

Index installation, Owens Art Gallery, Mount Allison University, Sackville, NB, 2015

Robert Tombs/ L'Occupation installation, ParisCONCRET, Paris, France, 2013

Robert Tombs/ L'Occupation installation, ParisCONCRET, Paris, France, 2013

Empire installation, Modern Fuel Artist-run Centre, Kingston, ON, 2011

Empire installation, Modern Fuel Artist-run Centre, Kingston, ON, 2011

The city of Erfurt as seen through the painted showcase windows of Erfurter Fenster, glassbox, Erfurt, Germany, 2008

The city of Erfurt as seen through the painted showcase windows of Erfurter Fenster, glassbox, Erfurt, Germany, 2008

"While the idea of using a petrographic technique to make a permanent mark on the land was inspired by the way Newfoundlanders seemed to relate more directly to the materials at hand, Tombs was also following Marcel Duchamp’s rejection of retinal pleasure in art. In striving to create a despoiled landscape, the now conceptual artist undermines the idea of making pictures for pleasure. Art historian Lucy Lippard calls her examination of resource extraction economies that are devastating the surfaces of the earth, and therefore the landscapes of its inhabitants, as well as the artists whose work responds to these phenomena, “undermining.” On this more symbolic level, undermining can also be a political act; it represents one of the ways an artist can resist these scars on the planet and body politic. No unassailable aesthetic criterion for such works of resistance has however been defined. Although one might assume they would follow in the vein of land art, or environmental works, that ‘collaborate with nature’ by making use of found organic elements to create ‘new topographies’, more recent environmental artists have shown that they can also work with, and then against, the very materials that result from resource extraction processes." 

– Susan M. Ross in "Undermining the Brigus Landscape," Robert Tombs: Brigus Mark, published by L'Arène, Ottawa, ON, 2016

 

“In psychoanalysis, the anamorphized image (made oblique, seeing things awry) carries another layer of meaning — an unconscious and secret one that the artist only half reveals through skewing perspectives (e.g., Holbein’s The Ambassadors). In the case of the present volume, take the time to splay it out, and watch one of Tombs’s conceits become visible (it is practically inevitable if you are reading it): the fore-edge of the catalogue is surprisingly activated by the effect of the black and white photographs bleeding off the edge of the page, visible as a vibration of randomly arranged monochromatic tones. While it may look like an accident of design, it is entirely purposeful here, matching the thin stripes of colour adorning the front cover. This colourful striped patterning calls to mind Tombs’s painting series, Empire, and his poster projects which document his site-specific work, Brigus Mark, and his installation L’Occupation.”

– Marina Roy in “Tombs Gothic,” Robert Tombs: Index. Graphic Works 1985–2015, published by Owens Art Gallery, Sackville, NB, 2015 

 

Index: this landmark collection of works by Mount Allison alumnus Robert Tombs is no conventional exhibition. At least not in the sense of its being a representative selection of paintings, drawings, photography or sculpture by one or more artists. Rather, it is an exploration of the art of graphic design in the hands of a master.”

– Thaddeus Holownia, opening remarks, Robert Tombs: Index. Graphic Works 1985–2015, Owens Art Gallery, Oct. 2, 2015

 

“ … If the stripped-down aesthetic of the installation allows for multiple, suggestive readings, it is largely due to the geographical location of the gallery, and the long history of Parisian seizures and conflicts in which the installation takes part. But additionally, there is a kind of delusional grandeur to the work, not only in the act of claiming such historical significance, but also in the use of basic store-bought materials to adorn the gallery with gold. Tombs … points out that the process he used to cover the walls of ParisCONCRET (with untreated canvas) is a variation on the technique of marouflage used extensively at Versailles, a palace symbolic of the French royalty’s power and influence. With a touch of self-mockery, Tombs draws attention to the display of power through art, marking out his territory with luxurious gold strokes.”

– Review of Robert Tombs/L’Occupation, ParisCONCRET, Paris, France. Michael Davidge, C Magazine, Summer 2013

 

“There’s no representation, here, simply nine long, narrow canvases each one foot wide by eight feet in height set along one wall and a bit of another in a small interior room in the gallery. Each canvas is vertically cleft into two halves of different colour, and in the corner where the two installation walls meet Tombs has worked directly on the surface of the gallery’s gyproc wall, applying onto it a single vertical bar of black tar abutting one of gold leaf.”

– Review of Robert Tombs: Empire, Modern Fuel Artist-run Centre, Kingston, ON. Gil McElroy, www.akimbo.com, December 2011

 

“Besides the site-specificity of the actual physical structure of the space is the geographic setting within which it is situated. The importance of the city as context is immediately addressed by the title of the work, Erfurter Fenster. Then there is the fact that one invariably looks through the glass at the cityscape beyond in experiencing the work. Glassbox, a gallery attached to the University of Erfurt (founded in 1392), was a former GDR bookstore, and its socialist late-modern architecture reflects a reality that is now past but which continues to echo across this former East German city. The silvered appearance of the paint from the outside has the effect of reflecting the city back on itself like a mirror, but it also reminds the public that the gallery space has undergone significant transformation of purpose and ownership in the not so distant past (from East to a united Germany, from bookstore to art gallery). Erfurt experienced far less destruction during World War II than other cities, therefore significant markers of its history — from medieval trading town, to Prussian city, to the Soviet occupation and its present status as major capitalist city at Germany’s geographic centre — are preserved in its architecture and streets. One could think of Erfurter Fenster as a kaleidoscope onto the city itself. The emphasis on ‘fenster’ points to glass being an important material to consider, not only for its association to the view onto the city, but for its significance in terms of the history of architecture and painting. Indeed, given Erfurt’s 20-kilometer distance from Weimar, a place where Josef Albers began his colour experiments in 1920 at the Bauhaus — assemblages made from found glass, wire and ceramic paint — or its role in synagogue burning on Kristallnacht in November 1938, glass seems a particularly potent medium for Tombs’s installation.”

- Marina Roy in “Mineral Intelligence and the Morality of Paint,” Die Moral der Farbe: Erfurter Fenster, co-published by Modern Fuel Artist-run Centre, Kingston, ON; Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery, Halifax, NS; and Kamloops Art Gallery, Kamloops, BC, 2011