Take Me Away From This Lonesome Town: A Conversation with Euan Roberts

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Take Me Away From This Lonesome Town is Euan Roberts’s first exhibition with Antler Gallery in Portland, and for such a forlorn inducing title, the show is far from friendless. Roberts gaggle of characters comprises a convivial group of creatures–a hat topped black bear, a sharp toothed shark, a technological savvy pup, so on and so forth. His simplistic and cartoonish style is in honor of the animal kingdom, for which we as humans are a part of. His creatures are metaphors to deal with the heaviness of our lives–toxic masculinity, the imminent collapse of our climate and environment, the desire to be at peace. Explored through the animal in all of us, is centered around what it means to be human, funny enough.

Shaquille Heath: The Black bear — is this a representation of yourself?
Euan Roberts: I guess all my work has autobiographical elements and for sure some people see me as the bear. I’m quite tall and large, often slow moving, but I’d like to think I have a quick turn of pace. The bears for me represents an unobtainable level of zen presence. The bear is always in contact with its environment, even if that means it is far from its regular habitat. The bear is like a fully realised being, like yoda or a zen master, relaxed, tuned in and present. All knowing, yet at the same time a blank slate for us to project our thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Ahh very zen! While all the animal creatures are far from their homes, the shark seems to be the most out of place for me. Possibly because he’s truly existing outside of what gives him life. Does it feel that way for you?
In my imagined universe the shark represents exactly that, a certain feeling of isolation and misplacement. The shark is also emblematic for male vulnerability. Quite often the shark in my art is crying and allowing its emotions to be felt. This is to disarm the viewer and show that despite being this efficient killer and apex predator the shark feels judged and burdened by that weight.

I think my shark is the Yin to Hirst’s Yang. His is fearsome, ferocious and haunts the viewer reminding them of their impermanence and how fragile we are. While my shark is tired of pretending to be scary, it cry’s, it eats pizza and cheeseburgers, it wants to be loved, it’s us!

Do you prefer animals over humans?
I wouldn’t say I prefer animals to humans, I think we’re just a continuum of the animal kingdom. We might wear fancy clothes, stare at screens and fly in tubes across the world but we all have the same needs at the end of the day. I think animals have this inherent comedic rhythm in them. And when you juxtapose them with our made world it creates this absurdity which reflects on how crazy our existence on earth is.

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Obviously humor seems to be your preferred approach to life. What do you think is your funniest work?
I did a couple of paintings of Dennis Rodman as a cat, which really amused me. I think I was inspired by that series The Last Dance and was fascinated by Rodman’s freedom of expression in how he dressed and presented himself. As a Black man who cross dressed, wore make up, was heavily tattooed and pierced and dressed to shock whilst being a professional sports star made for such visceral inspiration. I had this idea that Rodman’s 90s style had really influenced Gen Z fashion and I thought a cat was the animal that perhaps encapsulates that post-internet era the best.

This might be random, but I feel like you might have a great knock-knock joke to share… 
My partner read this question to me while we were driving and I made myself laugh out loud. This definitely says more about me and my lame sense of humour than the quality of the gags.

Knock knock
Who’s there?
Interrupting Cow.
Interrupting cow who…?
MOOOOOOO

https://www.antlerpdx.com/collections/euan-roberts-take-me-away-from-this-lonesome-town

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