Art interpretation is subjective, but many artists forget to retain this subjectivity during the creative process. Few calamities rank as high in the realm of artistic endeavors as a loss of emotion and expression. One could, arguably, assert that it is the emotive quality of art that makes it so valuable to humanity as a whole. Thankfully, there are still artists who uphold this important value through their own practices and work.
Namely, Dr. Robert Bohan (@RobertBohan), a Dublin-based artist and scientist, embodies this very ideal. His work is a fascinating exploration of his own subconscious mind – revealing ideas, inclinations and feelings through sophisticated visual imagery.
I had the chance to ask him a few questions about his artwork and he had many interesting things to say. Following, are his answers and choice examples of his incredible art:
Question 1: How long have you been drawing?
Drawing has always been part of my life. I could draw before I could talk. Nowadays I devote more time to it – each finished work can take up to seven hours to complete.
Question 2: What areas of Science do you specialize in?
I had a classical training in Natural Sciences and specialized in botany and zoology for my undergraduate degree. My doctorate was a multi-discipline approach employing geography, history, botany, palynology, statistics and philosophy. I also completed a post-graduate diploma in statistics.
Its always been my approach to life to try to understand as many different areas as possible. I spent quite a while in nature conservation with a particular interest in the historic landscape especially ancient woodland. My PhD looked at so-called Celtic woodlands in Ireland, Western Scotland and the Isle of Man.
Question 3: What are your favorite drawing tools/implements?
I love using pen and ink. The beauty of the medium is that it has great clarity. I’ve found that the size of the nib dictates the style of work that I produce. I have a trusty Rotring 0.7mm ink pen that I love to use.
Lots of people use tablets and stylus nowadays but I feel that the work produced is too predictable and that there is a loss of individuality and creativity compared to the age-old method of pen on paper. The immediacy of pen on paper just cannot be replicated.
Question 4: What advice would you give to budding artists?
That’s an interesting question! I think the key thing is to find your own style, do your own thing and not to be influenced by what others think. Its also important to remember that you can be your own most biting critic. Relax and allow the pen to do what it wants and keep experimenting. As a scientist I cannot emphasize experimentation enough!
I’ve also noticed that many modern artists are well up on recent trends and contemporary artists but would be hard pressed to differentiate a Perugino from a Raphael. I would really encourage people to take as much pleasure from reading about the artists of the past and their experiences. I also would encourage a perception that the male-dominated Western art canon is just one canvas in the gallery of world art. African, Asian and Latin American art are enormously important, for instance.
Question 5: What are the major influences in your work?
My work is driven by my subconscious so external influences are limited. I draw whatever comes into my mind. Even when I sit down with a particular idea in mind it quickly disappears and something else evolves. The strongest influence is the mood that I am in.
Most of my work addresses autobiographical topics and its important to me that anything I create is authentic. You’ll see plenty of birds, wings, chairs, couples, blindness, perception and so on in my work as well as lots of plants and animals. My subconscious seems to want to populate the world with an alternative flora and fauna. It especially likes rabbits!
As a youngster I never understood why so many artists, especially Rembrandt, kept painting their own portraits. I think I saw it as an egotistic narcissism. Now I realize that to understand the world you must understand yourself and your reasons for engaging with your environment in the way that you do. Self-portraits are a valid way of doing that – in science they might be described as the control.