Tho month of February is welcoming an artist whose artwork is already known to us thanks to the exhibition of the Linocut Competition from May 2017. Bob Sparham is an English printmaker with a background in Graphic Design and Art History. He became interested in Estonian art, particularly printmaking, in 2015 after visits to the national art galleries. He was admitted to the Eesti Vabagraafikute Ühendus / The Association of Estonian Printmakers in 2016 and has taken part in the 2016 Muhu Island Summer School as well as exhibitions in Tallinn, Italy, China and Armenia together with Estonian colleagues. Bob is interested in celebrating the methods that Estonian printmakers have always employed (formally illicitly and now openly and in complete freedom) to explore their artistic ideas and identities. Bob is also interested celebrating the way that artists can learn from other cultures and other historical periods in ways that enhance respect for those traditions. His prints are influenced by his love of Chinese painting, Japanese prints, and the Colour Beginnings sketchbooks of the English artist J M Turner.
His project is to produce a range of Linocut prints in the printing museum on the subject of Light in the Estonian landscape. His work is about investigating ways of representing light with colour, about how the ink that he rolls from the glass and onto the lino during the printmaking process comes to represent light in the sky and light reflected on water in the minds of people who view his prints. He believes that these perceptions are products of the process of learning to see, a series of conventions, unconscious mental processes which are related to the theories of the art historian Ernst Gombrich, particularly in what he called the ‘beholders share,’ the contribution a viewer makes to understanding and constructing an image in their visual imaginations.
At University Bob studied European History as well as Art History and Fine Art Printmaking and he has been interested ever since in building bridges between these disciplines. He believes the central point of difference between them is the concept that there is an overarching process of modernization marching through the centuries and that therefore history has natural laws just like physics does, laws which artists should reflect in their work, and which is much more popular with some artists and art historians, than it is with mainstream historians. However Bob follows an alternative model which argues that artistic conventions of representation rather than being products of an historical process of development and therefore obsolete are in fact products of the psychological process of development that every human undertakes and are thus scientifically interesting, relevant, and important.
He would like to study Estonian Printmaking further, particularly the work of Ilmar Torn whose work he particularly admires. Also because of Estonia’s historical experiences, he would love to meet some Estonian historians and scientists who research the subject of visual perception, to gain their perspectives on the psychological process model.