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Ricky Romain

There are so many humanitarian challenges that impact on this particular time in history that I feel I an no longer work in isolation from them.

Concepts My work has changed significantly since I began painting. My earlier work was concerned with making imaginative and symbolic connections to my relationship with classical Indian music, to the natural world, and to my Jewish heritage. In later years I have focused my attention on one particular subject - it is that of statelessness and alienation. This is connected to my concern for the desperation of asylum seekers who are not granted refugee status and consequently have nowhere to go. I have no political solutions to offer. It is as if I can offer sanctuary to such people on my canvases and therefore help their situation symbolically. Influences Art music, link, improvisation, colour, poetry, Jewish, Indian classical music, raga Career path I am a self-trained artist, because at the time in my life when art school training would have been a possibility for me, I did not realise the significance of such things. After a life-changing visit to New York, and to the Museum of Modern Art, in 1975, I experienced the realisation that I wanted to be a painter and would have to set out making this a possibility for myself. The training I gave myself, and continue to give, is a constant source of enrichment and enlightenment. I visit galleries and spend time with artists'' work. I read literature and poetry and study practical guides which enable me to make my own glazes using pigment. I discipline myself so that most of my days are spent painting or practising Indian classical music. When I am not in my studio I teach Indian classical music or take part in arts projects. My awards, residences, etc. are listed on my CV. The themes of asylum and immigration are political. As an artist, I try not to work with any party- political agenda because I fully comprehend the complexities of the practical problems that society has to deal with concerning this subject. However, as a human being, it concerns me that we are all too often ready to take part in the debate about numbers and statistics, with insufficient awareness of the root causes behind the human dilemmas in any given situation. It becomes so much easier to meet targets and goals to support rhetoric when you have not allowed yourself to be distracted by empathy. I see my role as a painter, as a struggle via my artistic process to stay connected to my own empathetically related responses to the world around me. Hopefully, when I share the resulting imagery with my audiences, my visual expressions of solidarity with the indignity and suffering of others, will touch people in such a way that they will understand far more about my feelings for the subject than my words could ever convey. I make no apologies for the fact that the majority of my figures are male. In a conflict ridden world that is suffering from what many perceive as an explosion of male aggression, I feel that I often want to give expression to fraternal sympathies, and to my masculine sensitivity, which can so often be overlooked by many sections of the media who are often too keen to stereotype for effect. This does not mean that I do not fully acknowledge the courage and bravery of the many women who are seeking asylum throughout the world, and I hope my images speak for, and to, them also. In his book ‘The Gift’, Lewis Hyde sites the example of Harold Pinter who wrote about his play ‘The Birthday Party’ “The thing germinated and bred itself……… It was determined by its own engendering image” This notion is recognised by artists of all genres, but often re-interpreted as the enduring cliché of the artist as ‘conduit’ for some slightly mystical process that has no critical edge or acuity of purpose. This is far from the artistic truth but it is difficult to explain the state of mind that originates its ‘own engendering image’ with rational or intellectual frames of reference. In order to reach the condition of ‘unconscious awareness’ necessary for genuinely new insights to inform the creative process, an artist must temporarily let go of rationality and reason. Art critics and cultural theorists are naturally sceptical of artists who attempt to describe such seeming madness, and many thousands of words are expended attempting to interpret artworks logically, therefore contorting the poetical into the dialectical. As someone who works within that extemporary space, I am often not able to use words to interpret my own work satisfactorily, it frequently seems more natural to me to understand a particular painting by painting another painting. In the same way it is difficult to describe the political aspects of my work. For me political re-actions are connected to passionate feelings and the work I produce is symptomatic of deeply held convictions, a type of passive ‘activism’. Therefore, as an artist, I do not presume to have solutions to difficult and complex political problems, or the arguments to challenge specific hegemonies. I merely try to understand and interpret visually, and in this way discover how my own sense of despair at examples of inhumanity is tempered by an admiration for the human spirit, and its propensity to endure and to survive, in the face of more and more examples of extreme brutality. Largely, with a few rare exceptions, the people I paint are nameless. They are ‘the disappeared’, the ‘discarded’, ‘the disenfranchised’. They are ‘numbers’ or ‘casualties’ or ‘statistics’, - so easy to ‘deny’ even if they do simultaneously invoke ‘compassion’, and , as their ‘engendering images’ seemingly manifest themselves upon my canvases, paint becomes no less visceral than blood to me, and I am transfixed by their predicaments. Even if we do manage to live in a state of denial about the human tragedies that occur daily in some part of the world, and to the atrocity of torture, or to crippling poverty and unfathomable injustice, the moral imprint of mutilated and wasted life somehow infiltrates into the ‘collective unconsciousness’ . We must surely be, at least subliminally, haunted by the people who are affected by these things as they cast shadows over our comfort zones. The numbers and facts are enlightening and sobering, 1,197,469 Iraqi civilian deaths since the invasion? - 3% of 9.2 million asylum seekers worldwide accepted by Britain? - 42% of applications rejected? 


It's A Merry Go Round

'Treading On Tears' No 3

The Activists 8&9

Treading on Tears No 2

The Activists 6&7

An Activist No 5

An Activist No 4

An Activist No 3

An Activist No 2 ('Drowning Not Waving')

'An Activist'

'Slings and Arrows' no 2

'slings and arrows'

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