“Proverbs”: A meditation through the lens of Robert Ellis

Irish photographer is featured in UW – Parkside Mathis Gallery



A thoughtful body of work featuring the rural landscape of Namulanda, Uganda and the surrounding community is open for viewing in the Mathis Gallery through Oct 18.

A sanctuary

Robert Ellis’ exhibit, “Proverbs,” presents onlookers with a sanctuary of images to sit in and search through.  This project refrains from iterating worn platitudes, framing any one story or claiming affinity with a particular idea. Instead, it is positioned as an exploration of a place, a people and over distances of time.

Unhurried and thoughtful

As an artist from Dublin, Ireland, Ellis first went to Nagenda International Academy of Art & Design in Uganda to teach as a stranger. His ongoing work there as a visiting lecturer and Artist in Residence has allowed for this project to develop gradually through personal relationships with the community and landscape. Effectively presenting changes through aesthetic variation, one subject is captured multiple times, over the span of several years, showing the maturing of his face, shift in clothing and slight turn in surroundings.

Listening to proverbs

In addition to the invitation to consider the reminiscent past and present through still frames, the exhibit includes a three screen video sequence looping behind a black curtain. The only audio components are of quiet, natural sounds and proverbs spoken intermittently in English and in a few of Uganda’s many indigenous languages. These Proverbs bear significance on the body of work, as Uganda has rendered the power of spoken work as a method of storytelling passed down through generations.  

Sense of life and solidarity

After viewing the exhibit for the first time, Gabrielle Tucker, a UW–Parkside sophomore, stated, “I get the sense of life in everything. With the name ‘Proverbs’ in mind, I’ve gravitated toward the image next to the man in blue, at the tree and considering it in view of the biblical idea of the tree of life. I also got the sense in watching the looping film, as it showed the ants working in daily life.” Tyler Steinsdorfer, a senior at UW–Parkside,  commented that, “It’s like the pictures want you try to find the meaning of solidarity…the way the man is looking off to the side, it’s as if he wants you try to find the meaning of solidarity but also…understand what has happened there.”

Visit the Gallery

Students, faculty and staff have the opportunity to view this work on campus until Oct. 18. More work is available at http://robertellis.eu/.

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