Roberta Booth MA RCA
Born 1947 Derby, England
Died 2014 Cambridgeshire, England
Roberta Booth is known for her artistic exploration of metaphysics, colour, and psychological theories spanning a career of over thirty-five years. She studied at Luton School of Art (1964–6), followed by Coventry College of Art (1966–9), and the Royal College of Art (1969–72). Many of her early paintings from the 1960s and 70s feature anthropomorphised forms, whilst later works are more narrowly focused on colour, myth, and symbol, and/or lyrical expression. About her work, Booth explained: ‘My art is the fruit of this journey bringing the mysteries back to the market place for others to share.’ Her paintings are often inspired by her extensive travel and exploration of world religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sufi mysticism. Colour theory is another interest of the artist, which has underpinned affiliations with the International Association of Colour and the publication of numerous texts, including a completed manuscript on colour and its power to evoke memory, aid transcendence, and heal the spirit. Booth had two exhibitions at New Hall/Murray Edwards College during her lifetime (2003 and 2012), and lectured at Anglia Ruskin University for over thirty years (1973–2007).
Ride of the Valkyrie (2006)
Ride of the Valkyrie (2006) resonates with an earlier series of work (1974–1989) by Roberta Booth in which she explored man’s relationship to machinery. The colour palette of silver, grey, and pale blue contrasts with the more vivid works characteristic of the artist. The resultant metallic environment with its impersonal geometry and gleaming smooth surfaces offer a machine counterpart to the organic forms of the sky behind.
Through this juxtaposition, Booth questions the danger of technology as a means to satisfy human life, and an anxiety about machines becoming the master of humanity. Mirrored surfaces invite us to re-evaluate our relationship to such technologies, posing the question as to where we draw the line between human and machine, whilst floating clouds stand for ascending souls.
The title of the work is taken from the second part of the Ring cycle by nineteenth-century composer Richard Wagner. The Valkyrie is part of the overall story told by these operas which warn us about the danger of greed.
Reflections on Arcturus (1997)
Reflections on Arcturus (1997) is an example of Roberta Booth’s wonderland garden works. In these scenes, gardens stand in as metaphors for heavenly realms, within which she presents a wonderland of symbols and marvels inspired by her travels and spiritual journey. These are both imagined and real spaces that resist concrete understanding. The mysterious nature of these works encourage an appreciation of the limits of human knowledge, whilst the temple in the right-hand side references the work as a spiritual space for reflection. Symbols – such as the spreading golden skirt-like shape (far left-hand side) and handprint shapes (right-hand side) – invite us to recognise and find our own stories. ‘Arcturus’ is the brightest star in the northern constellation, perhaps referring to the bright star in the left-hand side of the painting.
A Gate in the Heart of Love (2001)
A Gate in the Heart of Love (2001) features a pair of embracing lovers who have set aside their lute and paintbrush to come together in an act of sexual and spiritual union. The lovers can be seen in the centre of the image as abstract figures: the woman on the left with golden hair and a pink skirt, and the man on the right with brown hair and purple clothing. Their faces are obscured by a yellow glow and two hands touching in union. The Sanskrit words ‘om shanti’ (ॐ शान्ति) meaning ‘divine peace’ are written across the pink and purple lower halves of the lovers. The meditating Buddha above the couple also alludes to this state of transcendence. He sits behind a warm golden blaze that resonates with that golden light emanating from the lovers’ act of union. Emotional warmth is communicated via visual sensation, reminding us of the limits of artistic representation.