Homa Taj In Conversation with American photorealist painter Robert Neffson

 Robert Neffson, Louvre Pyramid, 44 x 64 (inches), Courtesy the artist

Born & raised :  NYC
Represented by: Louis Meisel Gallery and Bernarducci Meisel Gallery 


Artist’s Statement –
My style is based on the search to create a believable world of form in space. The process is informed by my experience of life and culture, where I have tried to balance acquiring classical values and skills with contemporary ideas and aesthetics. I want my paintings to look modern and make them in a relevant, hip, “avant garde” manner. l am a humanist with a sense of mystery, who uses images of the city to try and create potent moments of significance.

The paintings follow the formal laws of non representational two dimensions, which are vastly different from what happens out on the street.Yet I still want the suspension of disbelief, the “I could walk right into it” reaction.  In this sense my work relates to photography and cinema as well as traditional painting.  I am trying to create MY own city and it has unique, abstract rules. The final painting is perhaps more about me than the city.

The most compelling thing is when art and life come together and merge. This happens during the process of painting and the work is so real to me that there is a moment of “transfiguration”  of consciousness. It’s thrilling and what I live for. My goal is to have this carry over to the viewer as well.  It is always the effort to make other people feel what I  experience, that is the key.

MV – Favourite movies & directors –
Bergman,  De Sica, Antonioni, Fellini, Truffaut, Rohmer, Kurosawa, David Lean, Hitchcock, Kazan,  Bertolucci, Kubrick, Kieslowski, Polanski, Mike Leigh, Woody Allen, Scorsese, etc.

MV – Favourite authors –
Anything in English and maybe a little French or Italian if I have to.

MV – Favourite cultural centres/museums –
Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC), The Louvre (Paris), National Gallery (London), My Studio (NYC).

MV – Your most aesthetically (spiritually) inspired experience –
Getting up this morning and walking my dog.


MV – Art (books, movie, exhibition, museum, etc) wish list –
A large comprehensive book, major museum exhibition and full length movie based on Robert Neffson’s work and life.

MV – Artist/character (in any field) with whom you identify the most –
Me as a kid.

MV – Most inspiring city –
New York City & Paris

MV – Most influential person – character, artist, filmmaker, writer, etc –
That shape in the mirror.

MV – Most challenging aspect of working in the entertainment/ art world (& its institutions) –
My accuracy, preciseness, even “labor” are sometimes viewed suspiciously, somehow not as art or people think there must be some trick. Most of the great work I love took tremendous effort. The art world is very confused right now and it romanticizes crudeness, awkwardness and ineptitude, which it mistakes for expressing “real emotions.”  Usually, a genuine artist expresses their feelings IN-SPITE of such failings and would be a better painter WITHOUT them. Good craftsmanship is not art, but the two are not mutually exclusive. To have both working together is ideal.

MV – Most gratifying aspect of being a part of the art world (& its institutions) –
Love of the studio life and knowing I have the coolest job in the world.

MV – Always carry with you …  –
I always keep the painting I am working on somewhere in my thoughts.

MV – Art world pet peeves –
Art and entertainment are often erroneously assumed to be the same thing.

MV – Tell us more … –

All of my personal experiences, memories of the places I paint and what happens in the studio determine how I put together the structure of the image. This is something that a single photo could never show. It HAS to be a painting for me.

If you look into a viewfinder of a camera, you see only a tiny slice of the world, I want the whole pie. Hundreds of images are used to make one painting.The final image may look like a casual moment, but I consider everything and extrapolate the most essential , trying to create something new and whole.  I am not just copying photos, but using them as an aide memoir to explore the shifting and fusion of different perspectives, blending weather and light conditions in one image, the tactile use of paint, and more.

Most of my paintings include a view of more than 180 degrees from right to left, so on the street, you have to move your body to see the whole scene. To get all that into a rectangle requires much manipulation. It’s not that I just want to complicate things, it’s that one little slice of reality is never enough for me. Everything is painted with respect for what it is, yet somehow, it becomes anthropomorphized. Each sequence of buildings and traffic signs takes on a specific human personality that is relevant to the central idea.

You have to sacrifice something if you want to make paintings like this, so I made a deal with myself long ago. If I can’t be outside, out on the street, at least my paintings will be as full of life and light as the real world.