By Edd Martin
Middleground is pleased to present our next interview of the series, aiming to explore further into the practices of new and exciting emerging artists. In response to the lack of connection since lockdown, this series aims to provide an honest and insightful discourse to connect the creative voices of today. This week, Edd Martin talks to Rosie Robson about her practice.
Rosie Robson is a final year Fine Art student at Kingston University. Robson is a multidisciplinary artist with a particular focus in time-based media. The themes around her work come from her observations of life as a young woman in a time of body image cruciality and materiality. These observations manifest as surreal performances of gender expression. In contrast, Robson rebels against the social warfare of modern gender roles by sitting in front of a pottery wheel. She concentrates on creating pieces that serve to replace mass produced items such as bowls and mugs. In doing so, Robson hopes to bring attention back to the wonder of craft and how it can rekindle a sense of magic in day-to-day life.
This is a transcript of a conversation with some post-editing after the event.
E: Would you like to introduce yourself, Rosie?
R: I am a multidisciplinary artist. I have lots of different practices, which I try to keep up but I mostly work in time-based media. My work kind of revolves around this perspective of how I see the world as a woman and the pressures that come around that, like the identity of different gender performances.
E: What are your motivations and inspirations in being an artist?
R: I think Racheal McLean was one of the people that made me realise that I wanted to start creating work. She was one of the reasons I actually started studying Fine Art. She was one of the..
I just think she inspired me enough to be a creative woman without being in the fashion industry.
E: That’s a really interesting thought, I think I read somewhere in the past that in art school 80% are female students but in the industry it’s like 90% of artists are men. So it’s really interesting, and being a woman in the art world is so important right now. So what has happened to your work since COVID, because that’s obviously been a huge part within any artists life right now?
R: I have, with I think a lot of other people, found it really difficult to find motivation to keep creating work without physical validation from people — you know; receiving feedback, criticism, having people even address the fact that you’re making. So at the beginning [of lockdown] I did a film festival that ran through social media and then, as it’s gone on, the motivation has come in waves. I’m lucky to be working with an animation department at another university but the actual work that comes out of there is, you know? Very industrial. I’ve struggled, especially more recently because we’ve now been in lockdown for nearly a year, to even bother to express myself.
E: I can 100% relate to that. I didn’t realise that the studio aspect was such an important part about being an artist. Even if you’re not necessarily talking or having a crit with people, just being in that environment with other creatives is such a fundamental part of motivation. But tell me a bit more about the animation studio that sounds really interesting!
R: It isn’t!
*both break out into laughter*
R: Don’t tell them! But it’s just interesting to see the mechanics behind teaching creatively. Behind your university’s creative courses it’s such a different angle than students (obviously). It’s kind of just a lot of research, it’s a lot of listening, a lot of talking, definitely not a lot of making.. apart from infographics.
E: I guess it’s interesting to see behind closed doors! I’ve worked a little bit with my uni and it has been a big eye-opener to see other people’s perspective. It’s like a whole different world from being a student to working.
R: It’s even how the decisions are made. Even if you’re a course representative your voice is just not heard, but as soon as you have a place a bit higher up, then you have so much more power than we do. It’s scary.
E: Well to move onto something a little bit more light hearted, one of the questions we have been asking is, what is your favourite meal deal?
R: I’ve actually gotten into fights with my friends about this because they think its stupid but I go to Boots.. because value for product is insane and my main aim with a meal deal is to get the highest price possible. So I’m racking up £8 to £9.
E: *laughs* you’ve got to finesse, you’ve got to finesse!
R: I will not buy anything that’s not worth over £4. You know, maybe like a sushi thing, so not even that much food at the end of the day but like a protein bar that costs £2, and i’ve been to the gym… well I don’t.
R: I’ve been.. but I don’t. And maybe like an innocent smoothie.
E: I feel like you’ve always got to. If you’re going for value, you’ve got to get an innocent smoothie.
R: You just have to!
E: They’re like over £2 so that’s basically the meal deal itself.
E: Right, ok this is a good question; What are the 3 essential things/objects/materials you use to start off your process?
R: I had a thought about this and I still can’t really figure it out, because I think I get very frustrated, you know? I’m not a drawer or a painter.. well I can but I can be quite a perfectionist. So if I try to sketch something out I can get so angry that I’m not incredible at drawing. That’s not a good place for me to start. I think for me it would definitely be a laptop and a graphics tablet, and then just internet research. It’s boring but like just finding some images that spark something in me that I need to figure out. I would then use them to collage or redraw.
E: Yeah, I think a couple other people have said that their laptop is always a good starting point, because it is! You know? You’ve got access to everything, research is an important foundation for any art work. I would love to be that expressive and emotional artist that can just take my anger out on a canvas or something but I can’t!
By you talking about finding inspiring images online you’ve got me thinking back to the previous question. I’ve now realised that, during covid, not going to galleries and not being exposed to art is so sad. It’s really important for motivation.
R: It’s all the same media now, its all pixels on a screen and it doesn’t have that impact. When you’re looking at your phone you can also see everything in your periphery. There’s nothing installation-like about it at all. It’s not escapism because your phone is still in the room with you. It’s a lot harder to transport yourself mentally.
E: Do you reckon VR is an avenue that you would ever want to look into?
R: I think people who are studying art now are just going to fall into it because that’s the way things are going. It’s just depressing, well I don’t know if it’s depressing but I think it’s scary. No one has really done it before. Well some people have but a part of the concept of them doing it is that its new technology. But it will come to a point where it’s not new technology anymore it’s just the way that we see things.
E: Moving onto to the next question, what do you think is an essential thing for all artists to read/watch?
R: You’re probably going to get this a lot of times but ‘Ways of Seeing’ by John Berger. To break free from that matrix of having to get a job, pop out a couple of kids and then retire, you have to completely change your perspective. I think this book is one of the first stepping stones for anyone that feels creative but feels trapped by the capitalist society we live in. It helps you see the world from an angle where you think it’s actually possible to create and there’s space there to do so.
E: I just watched ‘Paper Supermache’ which I think is hilarious, I love it, and I really want you to expand more on it.. how did you come up with the idea?
R: I think it started off when I was collaborating a lot last year with my friend Chloe and we kind of just wanted to introduce humour to my practice. I think both of us put a blindfold on because we didn’t want to face anything too challenging and said let’s just have some fun with it. One of the things that I’d been looking into, or something that kept coming up, was masks. As my practice is a lot about seeing the world as a woman, and as a woman you are always seen. You can change your face and you can change the way that you are seen but I feel like a lot of your life as a young woman is just you performing femininity. You’re not allowed to be yourself, because the natural woman is seen as a bit vulgar. I just wanted to make myself a man, I wanted to put on this really ugly massive mask and be grumpy and be allowed to be a bit of an alcoholic because he’s a hardworking man! And it is not gross because he’s a man.
My friend had a different approach, she wanted to be beautiful and sensual. She was an architect, I think that’s what Chloe decided. It was strange the way that we went from a balloon and paper mache to making ourselves into these characters. They’re kind of beautiful but disgusting and gross — It was a really prop to work with.
It went as far as us making costumes for them and we took them around town. We just edited some photos with them as part of a funny series. We were going around high street shops and everyone thought it was really funny. Then one of my friends who was doing a video exhibition asked if I wanted to be in it. I said, “I’ll be in it, but I don’t have anything that hasn’t already been shown” and she said, “well what about your masks?”. We had like a week left, but I was like YEAH we can do something so we booked out a green screen room. We kind of realised that if you create a character you can just put a camera in front of them and then you’ll just move. As we edited it we managed to pick together things that could create a story, and an essential part of that was to stay relaxed. If you’re forcing yourself to create a storyline or forcing yourself to find a story in a selection of videos you’ll never find it. I think it took us 3 days of just constant editing, laughing with some wine and we created this.. thing!
E: Do you think now, after COVID and lockdown, finding fun in your work is fundamental to your practice?
R: *sighs* It’s not anymore. After being trapped inside, I’m obsessing over making sure I come out of this the best person I can possibly be, and that means that I’m really harsh on myself for everything. I’m like there’s no time for fun! You have to read, you have to study.. I’m going to shave my hair off again! Ive deleted all my social media! It sounds like I’m having a breakdown but I’m convinced that I’m going to come out like Mother Theresa.
E: Ok, last question; What would your quote of the week be?
R: I’ve had a motto for about a year now, which is You Live Some and You Learn Some.
E: To the point I like that.
R: Well, it doesn’t mean anything. I think I just say it as a filler
E: Kind of like, It is what it is.
R: Exactly! They’re completely the same thing, but I’ve put a positive twist on it! We’re all learning, everyones living some, we’ve all lived some today, and we’ve all learnt something. It’s lovely isn’t it?
E: Rosie, thank you so much for taking your time out of your day to do this interview, I’ve actually had a lot of fun!
R: Yeah, no problem! It is lovely to have a chat.
‘Ways of Seeing’, John Berger resources –
Free Online PDF Version: http://waysofseeingwaysofseeing.com/ways-of-seeing-john-berger-5.7.pdf
Link to Episode on YT: https://youtu.be/0pDE4VX_9Kk
Link to buy the book: https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/9780141035796