Robert Janz


b. 1932, Belfast

Robert Janz was born in Belfast in 1932. A painter and performance artist, Janz attended the Rinehart School of Sculpture in Baltimore, Maryland before moving to London in the mid 1970’s. Always on the move, he has spent much of his life traveling and living in various parts of the world.

Robert is a versatile performance artist, painter, sculptor and a print maker. His works are explorations of and comments on aspects of motion, change and transience. Many of these works are highly temporary, such as his water drawings on rock, which soon after drawing, evaporate. Other works, paintings and ink drawings on paper and linen, explore in serial form the flux and temporality of life. Janz’s recent paintings have chronicled the life span of flowers sequentially, through arcs of time and the processes of budding, blooming and decaying. He sees his flower paintings as a comment on mortality and the transient nature of life: “… the life of a flower is a compact summary of mortality.” In the same way he intentionally creates sculpture from materials such as twigs, fragile and impermanent, to suggest that nothing lasts forever. The fragility and current state of our environment is a major concern for the artist and he wants to increase the awareness of the viewer through his own subtle means.

A member of the international Fluxus movement in the 60’s and 70’s Janz’s concerns continue to be aspects of mortality and, increasingly, the acute danger to the universe of global warming. His art typically mixes elements of performance with the more conventional craft skills. A show in the Douglas Hyde Gallery in the early 1980’s saw Janz exhibiting a series of ‘performance/drawings’, where he drew directly onto the wall of the gallery during the show. Janz notes that people were confused at first, expecting the traditional visual theatre of sitting down and watching someone perform. But for him, the act of drawing is the performance. He paints and repaints, continuously erasing, changing and adding to his performance space, his viewers experiencing an evolution

Janz’s most recent work incorporates the same principles. Currently residing in New York, the city is his canvas. He adds whimsical images of mountains and wild animals to areas of existing graffiti and walls of torn up posters. He strives to transform an area of urban mess into a curious and fantastical landscape, only to be painted over or slapped with the next advertisement poster. Janz’s current outdoor work is both fleeting and re-occurring.

His first solo exhibition with the Peppercanister was in 2006, showcasing his vivid trademark lyrical depictions of tulips and roses in various stages of growth and decay. More of these metaphorical paintings were embraced in his second exhibition with the gallery in 2007. He displayed juxtapositions of geometrical elements inspired by the poetry of Japanese mystic Basho. Also included were some abstracted landscapes and small painted sculptures of caribou, wolves and polar bears, similar to those seen in his outdoor pieces.

Robert Janz is one of Ireland’s most celebrated living artists, with an international reputation stretching from Los Angeles to New York, London, Madrid and Dublin. He showed many years ago with the Oliver Dowling Gallery in Dublin and had a memorable mid-career retrospective afterwards at the Douglas Hyde Gallery in Trinity College. More recently, he returned to Ireland for a studio residence at the Irish Museum of Modern Art.