Shona Elliott - 'TV' by William Roberts

Podcast Transcript
'TV' by William Roberts

Hi, I'm Shona and I'm the Lead Curator responsible for Collections Access at Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums. One of my favourite objects is the painting called 'T.V.' by William Roberts, a London artist. The oil on canvas work was created in 1960 and it shows 8 people completely gripped by a boxing match on the television in front of them. The term 'gogglebox' seems quite appropriate! It's good to see an artistic depiction of such an ordinary thing as folk watching tv, and I love the range of emotions and postures in the picture. Some men are lying on their fronts, with their legs kicked up and arms propping up their faces which are inches away from the screen. I remember my mum telling me not to get so close to the image when I was younger. The chaps behind them are really getting into the match, leaning forward and clenching their fists as they wish for their preferred boxer to win. My favourite character in the painting has to be the dog. It looks fairly unexcited by the whole experience but nevertheless, the creature is watching the action on tv, along with the humans.

The colours are brilliantly chosen in this piece. It's a vibrant work with shades of green, purple, red, peach and blue, and there's colour coordination throughout the composition. The 4 colours in the rug on the floor appear on the clothes and skin of the television viewers, and the tv's frame, a man's tank top and the door are united by the same shade of green.

It does feel quite Big Brother-ish when viewing the painting. None of the characters look out at you; its just you watching them watch the tv. The picture entices you to have a closer look. The sheer size of the work captures your attention, measuring 102 cm high by 183 cm wide, and your eyes are automatically drawn to the 1960s tv to try to understand what's so fascinating. I can hear in my head the kind of comments and noises that all these characters would be making if it were a real-life scene.

I'm interested in the relationships between classical music, art and popular culture. There's some catchy pop music out there which includes references to classical music, like 'Mozart's House' by Clean Bandit, and there are plenty of products from popular culture that show strong artistic talent, such as the posters by Alphonse Much. Also, there are really interesting unique works of art that make references to popular culture, like this painting by William Roberts. It's a fun, bold painting and I highly recommend seeing it in person.