In Art New Zealand issue # 134 (Winter 2010) Dr Kriselle Baker wrote of Roberta Thornley that "... although the cinematic quality of her photographs might evoke the dark sensuality of Bill Henson or the surreal narratives of David Lynch, the place to begin with Roberta Thornley's work is in the 'everyday' world. There is no narrative linking her works. Rather, they are discrete images about the simplest and yet most evocative of ideas. Contained within each work is a sense of the efflorescence of life and the wet, dark, decaying extreme that is part of its cycle of disintegration and renewal. Her work has an underlying element of unease, as if each image marks a crucial connection between beauty, desire, and the 'bible-black' of melancholy."
Thornley is a recent graduate of the University of Auckland's Elam School of Fine Arts. As Baker writes: "... the strength of Thornley's work lies in her having, quite remarkably, and in a very short period of time, claimed her own ground."