The fabulous artist who refused to show his work

11 [HH] Art Gallery
Sep 16, 2021 6:09PM

In memory of Roland Roberge. Trish Delamere, the executrix of his Estate, tells us about the man behind the artist.

Roland Roberge

Roland Roberge spent the latter part of his life driven by a compulsive need to create both as a painter and a poet. He produced huge acrylic paintings on canvas, massive three-dimensional works in both acrylic and oil, a collection of idiosyncratic mythological stories enshrined in display cases and an interesting collection of early portraits as well as more traditional art works. In his ACRYLIC SERIES (2017-2019) his style is characterized by dense patternwork and fearless use of color. Electric colors are separated by gestural black brushstrokes making his paintings suggestive of stained glass windows. Roland’s playful approach to composition invites the eye to travel across the canvas in a rhythmic manner. His pieces such as “Ode To (Frank) Stella”, “Mother and Child” and “Girl with a Pearl Earring” show great adoration for the modern masters whose works he first saw while living in New York.

“Mr. & Mrs…”, 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 152 x 102cm | 60 x 40 in.

Roland never exhibited any of his work until Trish Delamere, the executrix of his Estate began taking care of his art after his death.“Unwilling to entrust his work to a New York Gallery or other representative during his life, he tasked me as an old friend to curate his work on his death. As executrix of his Estate, my objective now is to fulfill my promise to Roland and bring his work to light”.

“Homage to Stella”, 2018. MATERIAL: Acrylic on canvas, 152 x 102cm | 60 x 40 in.

In his professional life, Roland Roberge was an entrepreneur: he owned a newspaper delivery company in the 70’s, a nightclub in the 80’s, and was an avid day trader in the 90’s. However, his primal passion and motivation was surely his creative impulse. "So here is a fabulous artist who refused to show his work to the pubic”, says Trish Delamere. “His paintings simply stacked up against the walls of his flat in NYC and then filled all the rooms in his house in Connecticut. We even found some of the acrylics stacked in an unused shower!“

Roland Roberge and Patricia Delamere around 2013 on the New England coast

Trish, who was Roland Roberge?

Roland was a passionate man. A creative genius. He had a great sadness about him and carried tragedy in his heart. He expressed his emotions through his art and in it we can feel his losses, his loyalty, as well as his sense of humour. He was a cultured and educated man and I have no doubt that he predicted long ago that I would find the best and most elegant way to show his work when the right time came.

“The Girls & The Honey Bee”, 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 152 x 102 cm | 60 x 40 in.

How did you meet?

I met him in the 90´s in New York and we remained great friends until his death last year. He was a handsome, seductive, funny, difficult man. He lived a somewhat frenetic life while he was in his apartment in Hells Kitchen, although he slowed down when he moved back to Connecticut. I have to say that I basically obliged him go back to his Italianate home for his health. Taking him by the scruff of his neck we packed up his stuff and all his paintings and retreated to Connecticut. Later he would tell me that I saved his life.

“Untitled”. Acrylic on canvas, 152 x 102 cm | 60 x 40 in.

Why didn’t he show his work?

Well, on many of my trips to visit him in NYC we would wander around Chelsea and go to the galleries and sometimes talk to the gallery owners about his work. In fact in 2009, I think it was, we found an gallery in Chelsea that was very excited to show his work and represent him and I thought that this time Roland would agree to allow representation. But in the end he couldn’t do it. In my heart I believe he was insecure about rejection. He also had a way of mistrusting others with his work. This mistrust of others was a reflection of a darker and more complicated side of his character. So, as you see, he left his works to me to take care of. He never had a show or exhibition, and in fact he actively refused to take any opportunities to do so. As a result, there are no press releases about him. He didn’t trust anyone with his precious work.

"Ghost Man”, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 152 x 102 cm | 60 x 40 in.

So how did he make his living?

Most recently, his day to day work was the market. He was a day trader and worked from home. He would start trading when the market opened in the morning and then at four o’clock at closing he would have his martini, read the paper and then start to work on his art, usually frenetically, until bedtime. He was often completely obsessed until a piece was finished. As a young man, he graduated in English Literature from the University of Connecticut and in his early professional days he owned a delivery business and then a nightclub in Hartford, Connecticut. It was quite a reknowned place. Roland was a handsome man and a “bon vivant”. Sadly, like many of us, his personal relationships were complicated and he experienced loss and emotional detachment. He worried that his art works would not be understood and that on his death they would be destroyed by others. I believe this is why he named me as his executor. I did not know that he had also left all his art work to me, but I understand why he did, and I am dedicated to finding the best home for his works.

In 1997 Roland purchased a beautiful 1859 Italianate home outside of Hartford, Connecticut which he used as an art studio and refuge. This period was a reclusive time for him, and he spent his days trading on the stock market and his nights working tirelessly.

I know Roland experienced a tragedy in his life…

Yes, indeed. He lost a beloved daughter in whose honor he wrote a passionate book of poems called “CANNIBALS”. Such deep pain can overwhelm family relationships but later in life Roland reconnected with his son and an unexpected and lovely relationship developed with his two beautiful grandchildren. In fact, one of his acrylics pieces is called “4MINA" and is dedicated to his first grandchild.

“4MINA", 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 152 x 102cm | 60 x 40 in.

Why are we talking about Roland Roberge today?

Because we have a big surprise for all the Artsy collectors, in partnership with 11 [HellHeaven] Art Gallery in Miami, FL. Wìith the gallery director Stefania Minutaglio, we are preparing the first official exhibition of Roland Roberge. This will be an online exclusive sale only for Artsy, and will be preceded by a beautiful viewing room in October, so stay tuned for updates!

11 [HH] Art Gallery