The Old Print Shop

Robert Birmelin


Robert Birmelin has been active as a painter and printmaker throughout his career.  Etching, in particular, has been a medium that has generated some of his most imaginative imagery.  Recently he has added to the linear armature watercolor additions, often varying colors from proof to proof as experiments in intensifying emotional and psychological tone.  

There are two themes that have long preoccupied the artist.  The first – images of city crowds, where the viewer is placed among others in the intimate anonymity of the urban street.  Often these works are structured to suggest the shifts of focal attention made in the attempt to navigate through the visual overload of such an environment. 

The second theme plays with the vagaries of memory.  Dramas take place in familial and conjugal settings.  The fragility of memory manifests itself in compositions whose scale and direction are often contradictory, resisting a single, coherent visual reading.  In a sense, they attempt to parallel the restlessness of the mind.  

Birmelin is firm in his insistence on working from “on the spot” gestural drawings and from memory rather than from second-hand imagery such as photographs, believing that inner images yield more energy and surprise.  His first task is to create a world that he, the artist, can believe in.  The second is to fashion that world completely enough so that others can also enter it. 

After all, art is, finally, a social act, a transaction between persons both real and imagined.”  - John Yau