Meet the Artist: Rosalind Robinson

Our exclusive Q&A with painter Rosalind Robinson…

“…Edgar Degas is quoted as saying, “We were created to look at one another weren’t we?” This seemed to me to be a profoundly moving question and motivated me to begin to observe more closely the people around me….”

Rosalind Robinson’s striking paintings have frequently been on show at the RWA, and this year she is an Academician Candidate. 

After studying for a BA in Fine Art in London, Rosalind worked as a scenic artist for the BBC. She has had a successful career as a mural painter, but since 2010 her focus has been on producing paintings and drawings in her studio. She has shown works in numerous exhibitions and was the 2018 Winner of ‘The Artist’ Editor’s Choice Award at the SWA Annual Open in Mall Galleries London.

Rosalind receiving the ‘The Artist’ Editor’s Choice Award at the SWA Annual Open from Princess Michael of Kent in September 2018

 

When did you realise you were an artist?

I’m reluctant to describe myself as an artist, it’s rather a ‘one size fits all’ label now.  I think of myself as a painter and I’ve been painting professionally since I left art college aged 22.

 

Why do you make art?

Francis Bacon said he painted to distract himself from the utter futility of life. Perhaps he had a point, but I paint in a determined attempt to make sense of my existence.  

‘Where He Leads, the Past Will Follow’ – by Rosalind Robinson. Available to buy in the 2018 RWA Open Exhibition

 

‘The Distance Between Us’ by Rosalind Robinson

 

What is your usual process for making an artwork? How do you choose your subjects?

It usually starts with drawing.

I  draw from life continually in order to discover how the features of the face fit together to create the unique qualities of the sitter. I prevail upon friends and family members to sit for me and also use professional models. Sometimes I need to use photographs, for instance in the ‘Suffragette Heroine’ series of paintings I’ve been working on this year.

In drawing from life, a new version of the person in front of me emerges.

I will often go on to make a painting from the drawing, thereby creating yet another version of the sitter on which I will have inevitably imposed more of my own thoughts.

I find this constant recreation of new persona totally and endlessly absorbing.

I hope to convey to the viewer something of the mystery implicit in facial expressions, to engage the viewer in speculation about the origins of the portraits and their relevance to the present day.

A glimpse into Rosalind’s studio. Image: Rosalind Robinson

 

You are known for your striking, instantly recognisable style – often portraits of women laden with symbolism. How did you develop this style?

I’m not conscious of having a particular style. My painting is like my handwriting: unique to me without any purposeful effort or intention to be ‘different’.

In my work, I simply try to effectively visualise and communicate the thoughts and images that preoccupy me.

I really hope that people who look at my paintings will recognise something of themselves in the faces and figures I portray. So the style, if there is one, has developed slowly from my efforts to make each new painting more successful in this respect than the last one.

‘You Made My Heart Sing Constance Lytton’ – by Rosalind Robinson. Available to buy in the 2018 RWA Open Exhibition

 

I hope to convey to the viewer something of the mystery implicit in facial expressions, to engage the viewer in speculation about the origins of the portraits and their relevance to the present day.

 

‘We Two Together’ by Rosalind Robinson. Exhibited in the SWA 2017 Annual Exhibition

 

Has your work changed or evolved through your career? Was there a particular turning point or success that changed your path?

A pivotal moment came about ten years ago when I was reading a book about the painter Edgar Degas in which he was quoted as saying, “We were created to look at one another weren’t we?” This seemed to me to be a profoundly moving question and motivated me to begin to observe more closely the people around me.

Since then I hope that my work has been progressively evolving as I continue to examine the possibilities of expressing human interactions in figurative painting.

 

‘It’s Our Turn’ – by Rosalind Robinson. Available to buy in the 2018 RWA Open Exhibition

 

What other artists, works or art traditions have most influenced you? 

The tradition of early Netherlandish portrait painting is an obvious influence and I’ve spent a long time looking at the work of 15th & 16th Century artists like Hans Memling and Lucas Cranach the Elder.  

Two 20th century Italian painters I admire are Antonio Donghi for the mysterious narrative content of his work and Massimo Campigli for his confrontational use of composition. There are many contemporary painters whose work I admire, without being necessarily being  influenced by them.

 

You have shown artworks in the RWA Open, the secret postcard auction and this year you are a Candidate Academician. What does the RWA mean to you?

The RWA offers a valuable opportunity to exhibit work alongside other contemporary artists working across all media. It’s housed in a magnificent building and is run by enthusiastic and energetic people who inspire optimism for the future. I’ve very much enjoyed my involvement in the Annual Open exhibitions and Secret Postcard Auctions and I’m hoping to continue participating in future events.

‘Still Flowering (Constance & Winifred) 1918-2018’ – by Rosalind Robinson. Available to buy in the 2018 RWA Open Exhibition
‘Black Jar, White Flowers’ by Rosalind Robinson

 

What are you working on now?

Three small paintings, the last in my Suffragette Heroine series, are sharing easel space with a new large painting on the subject of broken promises. I’m also working on a site-specific mural panel I’ve been asked to donate to a new Dementia Day Care Centre in Warminster.

 

A fairy godmother waves her magic wand and says you can own any artwork in the world. What do you choose?

In 2016 I visited Het Noordbrabants Museum in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, for an exhibition commemorating the 500th anniversary of the death of Hieronymus Bosch who lived and worked all his life in that town.

I had never before seen his paintings, other than in books, and I was mesmerised.

If I had to choose just one (Is this Desert Island Discs?) I would very much like to own ‘Ship Of Fools’ which is a wonderful painting full of fascinating detail which is as relevant today as it was when he painted it in around 1490.

Hieronymus Bosch – ‘The Ship of Fools’ (fragment of the Wayfarer Triptych)

 

You can see more examples of Rosalind’s work on her website.

 


 

The Friends of the RWA is an independent charity that supports the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol’s first art gallery. 
For just £35 a year Friends can make unlimited visits to RWA exhibitions and enjoy a host of other benefits, as well as making an important contribution to the arts in Bristol and the South West. Find out more and join up here.

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