I believe I was fortunate not to have attended art school in the 70s, an era which favoured hard line and the airbrush, and which saw many of my talented friends drop out of an art school environment inimical to painting and drawing from life. I opted for a B.Sc.Econ History degree at the LSE, but art and design continued to be my passion. I meandered without great purpose or conviction via the Admin Grade of the Civil Service into fashion marketing and colour prediction for a multinational, and then, almost unbelievably, 6 horrible months running a plastics company in Neasden; unsurprisingly, none of these jobs came close to satisfying my spirit – enough was enough! I followed my heart and returned to school to study interior design.
For several years I really enjoyed putting schemes together for clients as a freelance. I often painted my presentation visuals in watercolour, and this very spontaneous medium soon infiltrated my painting life beyond the day job. I loved working out and about painting on the spot from life both in England and abroad – cafe life, restaurants, markets, factories, hospitals – you name it! Before long, I was offered a solo exhibition by Catto, a leading London watercolour gallery, and there soon followed another solo show at Chris Beetles’ Gallery. I was delighted when my work was included in the Royal Watercolourists’ Summer Exhibition.
It’s a joy and delight – albeit sometimes disconcerting – to have a career which is nourished by, and even depends on, engagement with new interests and ideas. A visit to Granada and Seville in the 90s completely changed the direction of my painting. I was struck with deja vu, and a strong sense of an inherited memory. Years of academic history studies had never managed to fire this sudden passionate, imaginative engagement with my own possible heritage. The breathtaking sweep of sights and sounds which my own family might have encountered over their centuries of journeying from the biblical Middle East set me researching ancient languages, maps, motifs and symbols, wrought iron scrolls, mysterious windows and crumbling brick.
Almost immediately, I abandoned watercolour in favour of oils to explore these rich resources jostling for position in a new and very different series of work which I called ‘Granada’. When I discovered that my own name, ‘Poll’, means ‘bridge’ in Persian, it seemed like a magical endorsement of my new desire to make work with which I wanted to ‘bridge’ millenia in the most personal way, and place me and mine firmly into a family chain with my ancestors. By contrast, I love working with the purely abstract pattern and design which I can see around me – water, trees and forest have provided rich inspiration, and still do; but through many different series of my paintings, collages, photography or prints, this engagement with history has remained for me the deepest felt and most involving strand of my work.
I have taken the logo here as my signature ( پل / Poll ) to reflect the idea of bridging centuries and cultures, using colour, tone and texture to evoke distance in time as well as space. I have been studying this rich and refined language for several years; its linguistic connection with my name seemed to me a magical pointer to an imagined route taken by my ancestors across time and terrain as they wove their way through the centuries from the biblical Middle East first to Belarus, and thence to London.
Much of my work has sprung from my desire to place myself into this chain of history, a theme on which I continue to work at present alongside work inspired by quite different themes. Some of these, abstract and semi-abstract, also owe something to this engagement – obsession, even! – with history.
Inside Outside presents Rockberger’s latest collection of mixed media paintings inspired by the seas and glaciers of Alaska, and the forests of France. Welcoming the audience to step inside the great outside, the artist creates a calm oasis within the urban clamour of East London’s Brick Lane. Met with vivid flashes of colour, interconnections of trees, sky and water and deep silence, the viewer is invited to immerse themselves in a meditative mood inside, whilst outwardly reflecting on the brilliance and luminosity of nature.
Curator and Exhibition Organiser
This show was a coming together of very recent and not so recent work. I was first attracted to water as a subject after a trip to Alaska some years ago. Those are the ‘Deep Waters’ described in my titles – calm and mysterious, with the fascination of icy turquoise glaciers moving inexorably towards the sea, finally cracking and tumbling as they reach the water. There’s nothing unusual in staring out to sea, which, unsurprisingly, is the principal occupation of passengers on cruise liners, and never more so than in the powerful vistas of Alaska; but equally, one will always find people sitting in their cars on the promenade at any English seaside nursing cups of tea from a thermos and gazing through the windscreen towards the horizon. Paradoxical that for me, as I suspect for many others, placing ourselves in the great outdoors so often turns us towards our meditative inner eye.
Walking in the forest of le Touquet – the subject of my recent work – also encourages me in this tendency. When I made my new collages and forest paintings, I wanted to show the flashes of colour, the criss-cross connections, the foreground and the back grounds. Just as we all experience life, there are the joyful bright passages and those less so. In the forest I feel, enjoy and hear the present moment, but also a strong sense of the past, of time as well as space, just as I did looking into the waters of Alaska.
Barclays Bank Media Division
Davenport Lyons Solicitors
Family Law Associates
Kazuo Ishiguro Esq
Kenana Sugar Company
Whittington Hospital, London