British artist Paul Yates’s latest exhibition reveals the continuing evolution of the Robot theme in his painting.
The genesis of the LEGION series originated in an incident the artist recalled from kindergarten in his poem, BOX HEAD.
At kindergarten the artist and his classmates made robot heads from cardboard boxes as a Halloween project. One boy continued to wear his robot head long after Halloween.
Wearing it to and from school every day, hanging it up in the school cloakroom, wearing it in the playground during breaktimes, taking it to church with him, sleeping in it at night.
Eventually his mother destroyed his robot head. This memory sowed the seeds of the Legion series of works.
First imagined in 2007, LEGION is now re-imagined with seventeen new works of highly diverse media and scale for 2021.
For many years Yates’s work rarely entered the commercial marketplace with pieces being acquired directly from his studio by collectors, limiting public view
The original poem by Yates:
Too big, the cardboard box sat high on his shoulders
So that he could only see out through the mouth slit
And not the two crudely cut triangles above intended
As eye holes. The boy had made the robot head in
School for Halloween, days later when his classmates
Had abandoned or destroyed their robot heads he
Continued to wear his. In the mornings he wore it
Walking to school, hanging it up in the cloakroom
When he went to class. At lunchtimes he wore it in
The playground feeling protected from the wind and
Rain and distant from the sights and sounds of the
Other children playing. Gazing out from a balmy
Atmosphere of eucalyptus gum and damp powder
Paints the boy felt safe and secure in a world of his
At home at mealtimes the boy would tilt up his robot
Head and feed himself jerky mechanical forkfuls of
Food, join two paper straws together to drink his milk
And imagine he was refuelling. On Sunday he wore
His robot head to church, setting it next to him on
The pew, turning it face down to Join in the prayers.
That night the boy fell asleep wearing his robot head.
His mother slipped into his room and removed it, took
It outside to the backyard and stood on it to flatten it
Then pressed it deep into a neighbour’s bin. Next day
The boy awoke to find the robot head was gone and a
Bright new shiny sixpence under his pillow.
For a while after that, from a distance, the boy would
Suspect the corner of a cardboard box in a shop or
Elsewhere was his lost robot head, but it never was.
The boy never made another robot head, it wouldn’t
Have been the same he said.