Robin Wyn Yates has been painting for years, ever since graduating from Chelsea College of Art, but it is only recently that he began to see himself as a painter.
“Working in the design field for 20 years I’ve been constantly immersed in the visual side of life,” he says. “Then a few years ago, I inherited some paintings from my grandparents. I loved the frames but not what was in them, so decided to paint something myself. When my partner held an antiques pop-up in 2012, these paintings were accidentally left on display. Much to my surprise a number of people tried to buy them, in response I was encouraged to start selling.”
His pieces blend form, dimension, colour and depth to create works that recall modernist architecture, geometric shapes, Matisse cutouts and Soviet era iconography. Each combines playfulness and precision, as well as being the result of a quest for perfection that takes infinite time and focus.
“Form and colour are fundamental.” he says, “They react with each other to create 3D forms that give the paintings dimensionality. Shadow has always been an interest of mine, sometimes more than the object itself, and I enjoy creating illusions by changing the direction of the light.”
The key factor in each piece is the frame. “For most artists, the painting is framed after it has been completed,” Wyn Yates explains, “but for me it is the other way around. Looking at the frame leads me in a certain direction when starting to paint. It sounds ridiculous, but I know by looking at it how it will start and then, as the painting develops, it becomes something in its own right.”
With his design background, and love of vivid colour, sharp angles and unflustered precision, it is hard to imagine Wyn Yates thriving in a rural environment, but in fact these modern infused pieces are created in the bucolic idyll of Framlingham, Suffolk. At this simplification of inspiration, he demurs:
“There are some splendid examples of modernist architecture near where I live, especially by an architect called John Penn. But really I think that most art originally derives from the natural world and its underlying structures, so I frequently find myself inspired by watching and looking in a natural landscape.”
But one thing hasn’t changed since he started selling his work – how he self-identifies. “The word artist can be overused, so I tend to use painter, as it is singularly descriptive and more relevant for me. Simply, “painter” is more expressive of what I do.