Paul Robertson makes some of the coolest video game-inspired art you will ever see. In his prints — several of which are on display right now in GR2's group show, “Diversions” — the past clashes with the present in a brightly colored, pixelated fashion. Robertson artfully pieces together familiar characters from '80s cartoon and video games with Internet memes and anime girls as if he's reading the minds of the Internet masses.
“When I make a piece, my main goal is to make something I want to look at myself,” Robertson says via email. “So I usually just cram it full of characters I like, or things from my childhood or just stupid things that I get a kick out of.”
He adds, “Also I don't really have much confidence in myself as an artist, so I feel like I need to put hundreds of characters into each piece to compensate for my lack of skill.”
But Robertson, who is based in Melbourne, Australia, but spends a lot of time in Los Angeles, is skilled. He was the lead animator on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game. (“Scott Pilgrim's world is pretty video game-inspired, so it's not too much of a leap to my stuff from there,” he explains.) He has also recently worked on the games Wizorb and FEZ.
Robertson grew up with games, the kind people played in arcades or on Atari 2600 and NES systems. But nostalgia isn't the only reason why he leans toward the pixelated style of such classic fare. “I also like the idea of making something amazing with a lot of limitations,” says Robertson. “Pixel art lends itself to this pretty well.” He adds that the low resolution and color constraints offer challenges that help him create.
Robertson wasn't just a video game buff as a child. He also watched The Simpsons and Disney films extensively, going through them “frame by frame to study their animation techniques.” These days, he's heavily inspired by the boundary-pushing, sci-fi, comedy anime FLCL. “I think it taught me to push my art to the limit and fill my work with things I'm passionate about,” Robertson says of the series.
Much of Robertson's art is animated. He posts gifs of his pieces frequently, explaining that it's the best way to show off his animated work on the web. He's even put together IRL gif displays. Several years ago, he made six loops that played on televisions set up throughout a gallery.
His work has been pushing boundaries as well. He launched a Tumblr page after LiveJournal, where many of his images reside, flagged all of his entries as “content that may be appropriate only for adults.“
“There's a lot of violence and sexual imagery in my work, so I assume it was because of that,” says Robertson of the incident. “I find it pretty offensive that it was censored.”
He continues, “My work is always over-the-top and ridiculous, and done in a completely tongue-in-cheek way, so the fact that someone took offense and censored the whole page is totally missing the point. “
But a little Internet controversy can't stop Robertson. His incredibly detailed, occasionally NSFW pixel art has earned him fans across the globe. See a few of the pieces he did “just for fun” between now and and April 4 at GR2.