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Review: Robin Perko at Broadway Cinema Gallery

14 September 21 words: Lizzy O'Riordan

Raised in Nottingham and trained across Europe, portrait painter Robin Perko's work is currently being exhibited at the Broadway Cinema Gallery...

A lot has happened since we spoke to Robin Perko in 2019 – the pandemic hit, we couldn’t leave the house, and for portraiture artists like Robin there was nobody to paint. In response, Robin started working on paintings of his local area, all of which can now be viewed in the Broadway Cinema Gallery.

As you walk into the gallery you’ll spot a series of small landscape paintings, largely of the same few streets, some of them featuring Robin’s car parked outside his house. In one painting cars drive through the rain, while another shows the suburban scene empty and still. The paintings capture a sense of intimacy in the mundane.  

“For a traditional portrait painter, the pandemic made doing business pretty difficult for a while,” Robin says. “Like lots of people I tried to branch out - landscapes, still life’s - but there's nothing like really trying to capture the essence of an actual person in their representation. That's something you just can't do from a photo.”

I particularly like a set of portraits that Robin has painted of his partner. In the first portrait she’s pregnant and holding her bump, in the next one she’s breastfeeding the baby. Like the landscapes, they capture calm still moments.

The look in Diana's eyes in this painting has brought people to tears, imagining what she's had to deal with

There’s another portrait named A Long Shift that’s already been sold. It’s a painting of Robin’s sister Diana who’s a nurse, in the picture she’s wearing a blue mask over her face. “She was and is amazingly brave. People talk about NHS heroes, but unless you know someone, you can't understand the huge emotional toll this pandemic has taken on our health workers.” Robin says. He tells me that he painted this portrait quickly and was surprised how speedily it sold. “I think it appealed to the nation's empathy and appreciation to have some sense of security. The look in Diana's eyes in this painting has brought people to tears, imagining what she's had to deal with.”

There are a few master copies in the exhibition which Robin tells me are helpful for teaching. He’s ran painting workshops for years but has gone online during the pandemic. “A few months into 2020 I was approached by the Soldiers' Arts Academy, asking me to do a programme of online teaching for veterans injured in the line of duty” he says, “there's a huge body of evidence supporting art as therapy for conditions like anxiety, depression and PTSD, but it has to be sustained for it to be beneficial.”

I leave the exhibition thinking Perko has painted the everyday in a lovely way, whether this be through a suburban street, a mother and child, or a nurse struggling through her shift. The exhibition isn’t about the pandemic, yet there’s something that captures the stillness of the past eighteen months and time spent at home with family.

Robin Perko’s exhibition is on at the Broadway Cinema Gallery from the 13-18 September 2021. Robin also teaches zoom classes, 1:1, or small group tuition in person. You can find him on Instagram and learn more about his work with the SAA 

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