As a little boy, Robert dreamed of becoming a zoo keeper. Today, the lions, tigers and elephants who roamed his imagination are given life in his dazzling wildlife paintings. Immersing himself in Pop Surrealism, Robert presents viewers with what he calls “psychedelic natural history”. The third instalment of The Dark Knights series, released in August 2022, sees the artist transform three big cats into 'ethereal, astral' beings through his kaleidoscopic use of colour and form.
Following a childhood spent roaming the forests of a North East coalmining village, Robert's affinity with nature is evident in every instinctive brushstroke. While he is known for his signature drip effect, in recent years, his limited edition prints have mirrored the 2D style of his original paintings to create a high-definition, contemporary look. Echoing his passion for conservation, Robert's artworks are printed on a 100% cotton canvas, with the pine stretcher bars sourced from sustainably managed forests.
His popular collections - including Primal Colours, We Three Kings and The Dark Knights - have explored the incredible variety of the animal kingdom, from Indian elephants to chimpanzees, badgers and turtles. He particularly enjoys painting big cats like tigers and panthers, describing them as a "stealthy power that lurks in the shadows, ready to strike its prey." One of Robert’s artworks took centre stage on the colossal chimney breast of a cathedral-style Lincolnshire home in a January 2021 episode of Grand Designs, showing his modern art can suit any décor.
For his 2022 release, The Dark Knights, Robert delved into mythology, and Arthurian legend to bring the 'ethereal' to life. Returning to his signature colour palette, the collection is a poignant reminder that if we don't look after our animals and the world, they too will become a myth.
Robert's showstopping new Ensemble selection captures the artist's childhood memories of Jim Henson’s classic puppet characters, which aired to a new audience when The Muppet Show launched in 1976. Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie Bear and Animal all take centre stage in this collectible release.
Robert says: "The Muppets were a much-loved part of my childhood. They were on TV on a Sunday evening, and I remember wishing The Muppet Show would never end, because as soon as it did it was bedtime, ready for a week of school. It’s been great to revisit childhood memories. It’s fun to remember, isn’t it?"
Robert’s studio is filled to the brim with natural history books and reference photography, which he reworks and reimagines for his original paintings. His signature ‘drip’ effect is created by letting paint run down the canvas before building up colour with successively thicker application. This gives his work a hallucinatory feel.
He adds: "The more I can throw down and the more abstract the shapes are, the more enjoyable the battle is. I’ve heard that the Abstract Expressionist painter Jackson Pollock said that if he planned a painting, he’d never make a mark. My work depends on spontaneity and a free association: I don’t really need an inspiration, I just do it."
While painting, he listens to music, natural history documentaries and true crime podcasts. Along with his conservation work – which includes donating an artwork to raise money for the Koala Hospital in South Wales after the Australian bushfires – his passion for learning more about the environment feeds into every piece he paints.
Robert has a studio in a cotton mill in Stockport, Greater Manchester, which is open to the public, and a studio at home, where he creates his art. Waking up early, he takes his dog out before painting from around 8.30am to 5pm. He also developed a new passion for flora during the recent COVID-19 crisis. “At the beginning of lockdown, I fell in love with houseplants,” he reveals. “I think I wanted to bring the outdoors inside. I’ve collected around 40 specimens in various shapes and sizes.” .
If you like reading about our artists' studios, don't miss our regular Studio Sessions feature in Fine Art Collector magazine. Catch up on previous issues here.
Best-loved characters from The Muppet Show are taking centre stage in Robert Oxley's brand new ‘Ensemble’ collection.
Showcasing the very best of our artworks, along with behind-the-scenes updates and interviews, the new issue of our Fine Art Collector magazine is a must-read!
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