Robert Ellis


Motorway/City by Robert Ellis

Artwork Detail

Visceral, tangled and slick with light, the streets, motorways and waterways of the modern city have been one of Robert Ellis's major subjects. This rich theme dominated his work from the early 1960s through to the mid-1970s. It was ideal subject matter for an artist trained in the rigours of accurate observational drawing who also displayed improvisational flair with both graphic and painterly media. The series started with ink and gouache drawings based on Spanish hill towns. The towns were translated into close-packed nuclei of pseudo-information. In Ellis's towns and cities, which were universal rather than specific, dots, dashes, nested grids and jigsaw blocks were all held together by taut and sinewy line-work. As the series progressed a dryness of scumbled detail and bony contour gave way to something more oily, viscous and lush. Thick arteries of paint now constrict fatty packages of urban data, creamy-white rivers snake around criss-crossed zones of gelatinous, trowelled paint. Motorway/City is typical of those works which stretch a map-like surface up to an horizon then flip it into profile. In some variations on Ellis's theme, rivers or streams press in around the city formations like probing koru motifs. In others it is impossible to separate street from stream, motorway from river or city from countryside, as the whole of the painted surface has become an animated mesh of woven pattern. (from The Guide, 2001)

Robert Ellis
Production date
oil on board
1219 x 1054 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1969
Accession no
Other ID
1969/37 Old Accession Number
Copying restrictions apply
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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