Nail Garden (detail)

Nail Garden (detail) large

Pictures are usually hung on walls using small nails discreetly hidden from sight. Robert makes these hidden elements visible by gluing them to the front surface of his image. He also reaches into art history to cite the use of wallpaper in cubist collage, and the use of nails in such things as African folk art and a magician’s bed of nails.

But Robert’s main concern is to present a series of striking contrasts. The flowers are printed representations of natural objects. The nails are real objects, man-made and industrial. Flowers are colourful, soft and feature a radial petal design. The nails are long, hard and straight. Flowers could represent a feminine principle, nails a masculine principle. People find flowers beautiful and delight in their surprising colours and arrangements; nails are associated with nail guns and other tools, hammered into structures, where they largely disappear from sight.  Conversely, the flowers could be viewed as a wallpaper design that is out-of-date and in need of a facelift. Nails are associated with renovation and repair.

By combining the two elements in a surrealist marriage of unlikely things, Robert unites practical and decorative, man-made and natural. At the same time, a tension arises from the knowledge that these things do not really belong together. In the end, the collage is the absurd joke of a playful artist, inviting the viewer to play along.

Nail Garden (detail)

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