Trice the man in the hat by a mountain in moonlight

R.C. Trice

“My art involves repeated attempts at assuming the postures and moods of certain characters who are not what they seem to be.”

The art of Robbert Trice explores the postures and gestures of the human form and their corresponence to emotional and mental states. It is the art of classical theatre. Solitary figures stand within landscapes, like actors within sets, their shapes invoking a mood and telling a story.

Born in Vancourver in 1957, Robbert is a painter, sculptor, actor, puppeteer, musician, art model maker, conservator, and picture framer. He has also been a chimney sweep, tree planter, gold miner and lumber mill worker. Each of these “occupations” has helped to shape his art. His work ranges from haunting and shadowy canvases to his highly original series of Bag People, character portaits on ordinary brown paper bags from the supermarket.

Trice the man in the hat at sunrise

Although his work seems naive and somewhat resembles South American art, it rests upon a lifetime of studying classical European and Oriental traditions. Robbert’s apprenticeship began not to an art teacher or studio painter but to the old masters. During childhood, drawing was his form of solitary play. He logged thousands of hours drawing by himself, recreating from countless art books the realistic portraiture of the Greek and Roman sculptors, Da Vinci, Michelangelo and other Renaissance painters. He also explored sculpture, still a favourite medium, later working in an art foundry to learn the skills of mould-making and bronze casting.

Photograph of Trice

A strong Japanese influence is also evident in Robbert’s gouaches and ink drawings. The quick precise brushwork, spare colours, sombre scenes and singular figures in some of his ink gouaches depict different characters in the mode of Japanese Zen drawings. Some of these are visual “koans” illustrating humorous contradictions or absurdities.

Trice man with the hat walking towards mountains

This tendency to visual witticism is best shown in his Bag People. These figure studies began as a means to capture the striking features of the homeless whose lives are utterly laid bare to view on the street even as they are swept away. By rendering them on paper bags, Trice graphically expresses the precariousness of their situation and the fact that they are disposable. Against this transience, the timeless quality of their character traits are captured in the art.

Trice man with the hat under a tree

TRICE’S BAG PEOPLE:

STREET PEOPLE IN TRANSIENT MODERN ART

When asked about the longevity of these Bag People, Robbert laughs over the idea of the transience of the work. He reminds us that Braque, Miro, Klee and other twentieth century artists incorporated all kinds of paper and cuttings into their paintings and collages, sometimes painting on cardboard and burlap bags.

“As an art conservator, I find it humorous to do art on a paper bag, yet it seems natural for the character of a street person to be portrayed in this manner. Bag People—Holy Ones, Hobos, Wanderers—like the paper bag, are as timeless as they are transient.”

Trice bag people on the street

Robbert’s extraordinary attention to the expressive detail of body language was honed on the stage. He worked for many years with the North American Bunraku Puppet Theatre, a group dedicated to presenting this ancient tradition of Japanese drama in contemporary form. In Bunraku, larger-than-life-size puppetsexquisitely communicate the subtlest thoughts and emotions often without the aid of sets or dialogue. Trice was artistic director, stage manager and a performer for this critically-acclaimed company as it toured much of the United States and Canada.

Trice figure before the fire

In addition to his work in the field of fine art and his theater work, Robbert Trice works as a studio musician (harmonica and percussion), runs a major framing studio, and performs as a ventriloquist.

“By drawing a figure, I can participate in the total and absolute aloneness of the space she is inhabiting.” Robbert’s art work has been exhibited and sold in several group shows in California and New York; in a Reductionist Art Exhibition that went on tour in the countries of the former Soviet Union. He has had shows at Bains Fine Art in Vancouver, B.C., the Museum Store in Santa Monica, the Foundation for the Study of Objective Art in Toronto, and many other galleries.

The Casino series

Trice figures at slot machines
Trice a bingo hall

The Bag Men series

Trice image of an old man on paper bag
Trice man in front of skyscrapers on paper bag
Trice man in an alley on paper bag

Paper Bag Ceramics

Trice man in red in cityscape on ceramic bag
Trice tree and mountain on ceramic bag