Rob Piggott

“Within, II”, 2000, Watercolour on paper

Rob Piggott is a Contemporary Abstract painter and printmaker based in Dunedin. His comprehensive website made me wonder whether I should just direct our readers there and skip the interview. But Rob was happy to make an appointment to share afternoon tea and take the opportunity to show me around his studio workshop.


Framed watercolour paintings

After interviewing 19 odd, (not as in odd, but as in approx.) artists I felt confident that I’d guide Rob through the questions, allowing for a few minor detours. BUT the whole afternoon was a detour and my questions never even got a chance to emerge from my bag! There was too much to see here… there…. over there…. along there…. in there….. and my general inquisitiveness had me asking, looking, picking up and admiring….. I forgot I was supposed to be conducting an interview!

“Trust is Golden”, 2000, Watercolour on paper, framed, (Rob holding)

Rob’s studio was originally separated from the main warehouse by a hanging-partition made from old used carpets. After constructing a wall, adding lighting, and painting the area, Rob has created a large light airy space. Well maybe too airy, Rob commented. It’s impossible to heat in winter, and the past century of accumulated soot and coal-dust from the nearby railway floats down from the rafters onto my work every-time the wind blows! That’s why it’s all covered up or stored in the large cabinets of drawers. So we left our drinks and afternoon tea to investigate the drawers.  Rob carefully removed tissue-covered layers to reveal some stunning work.

Work from “White Cross” series, 2000, Acrylic and oilstick on paper

Why, I asked, have you got all this work hidden away? I know you’ve got it covered to keep it clean but why isn’t it hanging in galleries. Well, Rob replied, it’s too expensive to frame all my work and its very time-consuming as well.  But don’t forget there is already a lot of work currently in galleries and cafes, or in private homes and collections.  He then showed me several books he had published specifically to showcase his work. It’s one way of being able to share the depth and breadth of my work… especially to gallery owners. There’s only so much that you can put on a website and marketing doesn’t come naturally for me.

At this stage I thought I better start taking notes but that thought was quickly overridden by my desire to lift up and look at some fine (rice paper????? -what was that paper Rob?) art works. There was a quiet thoughtfulness to them that appealed to me. I wondered whether this was how Rob was going to interpret his chosen haiku. What a contrast to the previous large bold angular shaped canvases we’d been viewing with their striking use of juxtaposed colours.

“Edge of Mind”, 2007, from ‘Zen for Beginners’, Chinese ink on Xuan paper

Further drawers revealed some stunning nudes which Rob said he no longer felt quite so comfortable with but he was pleased he’d given life drawing a go. As an artist and as a teacher I needed to explore extensive realms of art. However I’ve realised that I’m an abstract thinker and naturally more comfortable working intuitively in a self-reflective manner. For me abstract art can have both a sense of immediacy and timelessness.  Despite being more difficult to sell than representational work it is what I have consciously decided to develop and give out  to others. An abstract painting that radiates with simplicity is not so easily done. He described it to me, it’s a bit like writing a story without images.

from ‘The Couple’ series, 1993: (Left) “Yin/Yang”, and (Right) “Afterglow” -etchings, with unique hand-colouring

New Zealanders don’t seem to buy abstract work readily – Even much of the work I have sold in NZ has been to international buyers and I’ve had more sales overseas. Rob works in series, exploring and working through an idea. Often he’ll start a work or series and leave it for a year or two – until he’s happy with it or sure that it’s really complete.   Frequently exhibition guidelines state that entries must have been created that same year, a requirement which can be a sticking point for Rob. Apart from life’s numerous interruptions, the work itself has its own timing, – it needs time to breathe and grow. As an artist I think of myself at times to be like a mid-wife while certain creative ideas and materials can come together into form, – patience and sensitivity is required. It’s not helpful to rush a birth! But it’s also important to feel that the work will survive the test of time.

( Detail ) -“Walking through Blossoms”, 1998, from ‘Spring’, Chinese ink and colour on Xuan paper

So I guess it’s a bit like writing poetry. Often I’ll write something, put it aside, let it brew, bring it out later and think yes it’s survived this time and it’s still ok or I wonder why I wrote such rot.  Hmm, was Rob’s reply. Well, I thought, maybe he never creates ‘rot!’

“Gratitude”, 2011, Sonata series, Acrylic and oilstick on canvas

Rob then showed me an area where he builds his frames and stretches his canvases. I began to appreciate the preparation required before a brush even touches a canvas.  We then moved on to where Rob had stacks of canvases in various stages of completion. Some works, he pointed out to me, might just need a title and signature to complete them but, he added, all in good time.

Bubble-wrapped ‘Loop’ series paintings. “Once in a Red Moon”, 2012 in foreground

Juggling family life, art and trying to earn a living has been an ongoing balancing act for Rob. It’s a matter of priorities really, he said. And he manages to maintain the ‘right’ priorities. His married daughter lives in Wellington with a baby grand-daughter so trips up there have been frequent and more are very much looked forward to. His son’s wedding is the same weekend as our exhibition opening so Rob will be forgiven if he doesn’t attend that evening!

Watercolour painting in the Rimu cabinet of drawers

While happy to receive studio visits, Rob asks for “appointment only”. Rob prefers to work in silence but with the constant noise of traffic he sometimes uses music to make a quiet blockade. Once absorbed in his art though, the world is outside of his consciousness.

4.30pm Friday traffic was really humming as I stepped outside into after storm puddles. Well, I thought, that was an enjoyable fascinating afternoon but what am I going to write?

(Left) “Cloud, Lake Reflection”, and (Right) “Sky Lake”, both 2011, from Wanaka series, Acrylic on canvas

Take a further look here and find out more about Rob Piggott.

6 Responses to “Rob Piggott”
  1. Rob Piggott says:

    It’s been lovely meeting you, Ruth. – I’m impressed by the generous commitment that you have given to your projects, and the effort you’ve put into bringing people’s energies together. Good luck with it all, and thanks for this studio-visit ‘write-up’. Kind Regards, Rob Piggott

  2. Ron C. Moss says:

    Wonderful artist, love his work. Ron Moss

  3. Fred Robertson says:

    wow Rob very inspiring work…though you always were an inspiration!

    • Rob Piggott says:

      Hi Fred (the Rudolf Steiner teacher?) thanks for your lovely comment, and it’s wonderful to hear from you. I have often wondered how you (and Lynn?) have been…. (since 30 years???)

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