Born in Derbyshire, United Kingdom, Priseman read esthetics and Art Theory at the University of Essex under art theorist Professor Michael Podro. Priseman began his working life as a book designer for Longman Publishers from 1989-92. While there he started painting portraits in oils. Sitters from this period include the Dalai Lama, the Duke of Atholl, Phil Collins, Jeremy Paxman, Lord Condon, the Marquess of Northampton, Sir Eric Mensforth, Lord and Lady Johnston and Cardinal Basil Hume with work being held in public collections including The Royal Collection, Windsor Castle, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and Cranfield University.
In 2004 Priseman gave up portrait painting and began work on the ‘Hospital’, ‘Subterraneans’, and ‘The Francis Bacon Interiors’ series of paintings. The ‘Subterraneans’ series took their primary source from the 1977 album ‘Low’ by David Bowie. Painted over the course of 2004–2006, the images depict spaces such as train stations, underground walkways and waiting rooms. The ‘Hospital’ series was also painted between 2004-6, with the work drawing on a renaissance understanding of perspective and architectural forms, influenced by the art deco movement. These works were first exhibited at Derby Museums and Art Gallery in 2007, being shown as a tie-in with the Joseph Wright collection.
The Francis Bacon Interiors
'The Francis Bacon Interiors' were painted between 2006–2008 and depict the Paris hotel room where Francis Bacon's lover and muse George Dyer committed suicide, the room in a catholic hospital in Madrid where Bacon himself died, and a series of studios where he painted. Priseman worked on an 'In Conversation' text with the art critic and curator, Michael Peppiatt, which accompanied the series.
No Human Way to Kill
In 2007 Priseman developed the project 'No Human Way to Kill' out of the 'Hospital' series. 'No Human Way to Kill' was exhibited in London and New York in 2010 and again in 2011. The series of paintings presents the five different methods of execution used in the USA which include Hanging, Firing Squad, Gassing, Lethal Injection and Electrocution. Alongside the paintings, twelve etchings look at other methods of state sanctioned execution which have been used around the world, including the Guillotine and Garrotte. The series examined how different countries have adopted different techniques to execute condemned prisoners, which in turn argue execution to be a socially constructed act of group catharsis.
During the New York shows, live debates around the issues explored were streamed to universities across the USA and Canada which included Yale, Columbia, Arizona University, the University of Minnesota and the Cleveland Institute of Art.
A book on the work and ideas surrounding it was published by the Seabrook Press in collaboration with the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex and Amnesty International in 2009. The book presents different points of view on the topic. It opens with an account from Reverend Cathy Harrington, whose daughter Leslie Mazzara was murdered. Cathy negotiated a life sentence for her daughter’s murderer, who had potentially been facing the death sentence. This is followed by an overview of life on death row in San Quentin from former Crips gang member Anthony Ross. Then former Texas prison Warden Jim Willett, who oversaw 89 executions, gives a detailed account of how an execution is carried out.
Following 'No Human Way to Kill' Priseman produced the 'Gas Chambers' series. This project comes in two parts, and focuses on the developmental steps taken in Nazi Germany that began with the gassing of the mentally ill and ended in genocide.
The first part consists of six pencil drawings which are designed to look like hand coloured postcards and show the outsides of the hospitals in Germany and Austria where the T4 Euthanasia programme took place between 1939 and 1941.
The second part of this project consists of five oil paintings (each 6 ft x 9 ft). The paintings trace the movement taken by the Nazis towards an industrialised killing process which culminated in Auschwitz where up to 2,500 people were killed at a time. The series is accompanied by an essay entitled 'On Robert Prisman and the Possibility of Painting' by the curator and art historian Professor Peter Vergo.
In 2010 Priseman produced two paintings on the Omagh bombing in Northern Ireland. 'Omagh'. Each painting in the 'Omagh' set shows a view of Market Street in Omagh, one looking up and one looking down the road. The first is based on a photograph taken just before the explosion, which was found in rubble after the event. The second is based on a video still and shows a view up Market Street towards the Omagh Courthouse and depicts the scene just after the explosion.
- Robert Priceman - Biography
- "Who is Robert Priseman". Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- See: http://www.robert-priseman.com/projects/hospital/
- See: http://www.robert-priseman.com/projects/lan-yuan-hung/
- See: http://www.robert-priseman.com/projects/anne-schwegmann-fielding/
- See text at: http://www.robert-priseman.com/projects/lan-yuan-hung/
- The Francis Bacon Interiors
- Michael Peppiatt In Conversation with Robert Priseman, Seabrook Press 2009
- 'No Human Way to Kill'
- "robert priseman news". Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- Exhibited at The Centre of Contemporary Art, New Zealand in 2009, New Zealand
- 'On Robert Priseman and The Possibility of Painting' by Professor Peter Vergo
- In 'The Northern Ireland Collection', Wolverhampton Art Gallery