“Animals are good for thinking.” Claude Levi-Strauss
Early tribal cultures believed the natural world to be the bridge connecting earth and spirit. Animals were regarded as powerful spiritual beings that could connect humans to unseen realms, the natural world, and each other. Along these lines, Robert Bissell creates and transports us to a completely different atmosphere from modern daily life and invites us to learn more about ourselves.
In his animal paintings, the world of animals is a mirror for human existence, self-definition and self-reflection. Yet, these are not mere children’s tales. “Bissell’s work disarms by narrating vitally grown-up and urgent allegories in the guise of child-like humor,” William Zimmer, art critic for The New York Times warns.
Bissell’s paintings explore the idea that animals have metaphysical importance to our own spiritual well-being. Lured into a realm devoid of humans, the animal characters require we consider our own condition and place in nature. While whimsical at first glance, there is underlying tension and precariousness beneath the images. Disarmed, we objectively consider ourselves without familiar references.
“His animal work is full of charged meaning, lore and touched by surrealism”, said Suzanne Bellah, Director Carnegie Art Museum. Influenced by the surreal legacy of Magritte, he mixes scales and uses gigantism with a variety of textures and subtle color palettes.
These paintings are reflections on the environment, life, death, renewal and stages of transition. Departing from the safety of family, and making our way in the world. Conjuring up something simultaneously real and unreal, the work appeals to the intellectual child in all of us.
Bissell’s landscapes also offer no familiar frame of reference. Free of forced aesthetic or emotional excess we are forced to consider the world as it is— not an idealized vision. Devoid of sentimental narrative, anecdote or central focus, the viewer can wander freely into the scene and consider it according to their own sensibility. These are not romantic landscapes in the traditional sense. Rather they allow an experience of the sublime, not from what may be, but from what is.
Bissell grew up in Somerset, England, and retains in his love of art, a love of rural life, Celtic legends and panoramic landscapes. His keen interest in visuals began at an early age while documenting life around him through photographs. After studying graphic design and obtaining a Masters Degree from The Royal College of Art in London, Robert moved to San Francisco and began a successful career in retail advertising. After 15 years, he decided to devote all his time to painting. He currently lives in Northern California and regularly exhibits in museums and galleries across the United States and Europe