Petal Joan Roberts - header picture

About Petal Joan Roberts

About P.J.R.-photo from en exhibition

‘See! See!’ I said with my tiny finger pointing at something. According to my parents, my first word was neither Mamma or Dadda, but ‘See!’  Looking back at my art work over the years since the 1960’s, I realise that that is precisely what I want my viewers to do. To see what I see.

Moving in the 1950s to England from tropical British Guiana (now Guyana) in South America was my first meeting with people who had different answers to life. Some 14 years later, moving to Denmark was my second meeting with people who had yet another answer, as also was my third move, to Sweden in 1971.  All these meetings loosened up my mind from what otherwise might have become a set way of thinking, and later on I began to look back to my childhood environments and saw people, the original inhabitants of my native country, who had yet another way of working out the puzzles of existence.

After my first art college years trying to imitate what I could see in nature or anywhere else, I began to look beyond that to the more underlying aspects of our life here. The mysteries, the legends, the different ways people approach the same questions we are all faced with. This led me partly to the world of what is now called fantasy, but which is really only our collective imagination.

In the 1970s I made a number of watercolour illustrations to the Tolkien trilogy which above all deals with a large number of questions surrounding our existence and our behaviour while alive. *  Now, life in the new countries meant discovering new things, and they began to creep into my work. In Sweden, the way the country people build fascinated me, as there seemed to be no rule, apart from ‘will it stand?’ that governed their farm buildings. Another series resulted, this time of frottage on Japanese paper stretched on rough wood frames: an experiment in how far I could push the paper before it tore. I called it ‘In the Country’. 

Then I moved on to a series of works, in various media, based on the legends of my former compatriots in South America, whose ideas on where we come from, what morals we should adopt, and so on, have a remarkable affinity with Tolkien’s world.  My aim was to act as a bridge between the world of the forest-dwellers and those who regard the former as expendable.  The Amerindian world is not one world, each group has its own version and all their legends are full of humour and great insight into human nature.  They are important stories whose originators have as much right to live in their own environment as anyone else. These are my ‘Legends of the Rainforest’ and'Heavens, the Earth, Netherworlds' series. **

Some project work followed, one in collaboration with scientists from the Swedish Agricultural University dealing with the underground life of fungi, called 'Mer än Karljohan' (More than just mushrooms) and one in collaboration with local writers to commemorate 200 years of peace in Sweden, we called that exhibition 'Fredens Konst' (The Art of Peace). *** One result of the latter was a commission to do the book cover to'Nemesis nu' **** by Bo Gustavsson, one of the writers. Published 2016. This collaboration has continued.

*                Now in Edinburgh University's David Talbot-Rice Collection. 
** - ****    See selected pictures in gallery.