Robyn Woolston

20 Jun

Open speaks to the 2012 Liverpool Art Prize winner,Robyn Woolston. Liverpool-based Robyn Woolston, a filmmaker, photographer and installation artist won the recent Liverpool Art Prize 2012 winning £2000 and a solo display at Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery in 2013.

Congratulations on winning the 2012 Liverpool Art Prize, how did it feel to have won?

Utterly overwhelming, it’s been a rollercoaster ride from short-list to announcement. Primarily though it’s been an honor to work in such a unique environment, architecturally and historically, as Metal at Edge Hill station. It’s the world’s oldest standing passenger railway station and as such is imbued with texture, context and narrative.

What brought you to Liverpool?

I studied for my second degree at Wirral Met College, through John Moores University, and stayed for the Capital of Culture… and I appear to still be here! In some ways I feel deeply nomadic but really I only ‘settle’ by the sea so Liverpool’s perfect as it’s tidal and creative.

What do you find most inspiring about the city?

The buildings, the creative ebb and flow of the people and events like the Biennial. Not to forget Fact, Tate Liverpool and emergent galleries like Curve who are now operating out of two spaces, one in Liverpool and one in Newcastle, Australia.  Tell us a bit about your winning exhibit ‘last’. It’s the second part of a work containing 132,000 pieces of plastic cutlery. The first part was shown at Threshold Festival in early 2012 and was called ‘Smart Price’. Both works question our use of finite resources within an economy that places profit above planet in terms of value to the human race. The prize winning piece, ‘last’ 2012, also contained an 8.5m silver birch tree and a neon sign in conjunction with the plastic.

When did you realise your future was to be as an artist?

When I tried to ‘wedge’ myself into broadcast television production in a standardised form – it’s where I began professionally. Having said that Art was the one thing that always made sense to me as a child, the one process that ‘flowed’, so ultimately I cannot differentiate between those early steps, mark-making, and the way I work with materials now. I still work instinctively.

Who has been the biggest influence on your work?

I’d have to say practitioners like Rauschenberg, Beuys and Kiefer. What resonates most is their relationship to materials and the way in which they interrogate ‘meaning’ through their use of ‘resources’. On an environmental note a former Jain monk called Satish Kumar has irrevocably altered the way in which I view the world and for that I will be forever grateful.

What is the ethos behind your work?

I work with waste products and emotions; the physical detritus that the industrialised society, banking and brands for example, would rather reject. Sometimes such ‘waste’ comes in the form of a vulnerable emotion, like grief, at other times it’s literal, like plastic. My drivers are ecological and my perspective is culturally ‘situated’ so I’m always trying to understand the push-and-pull between the two. To ‘renegotiate’ the boundaries between what a brand sells me and what the earth teaches me.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

Make contacts, learn about materials, follow your instinct, explore, experiment, take risks, learn from those that know, grow. Acknowledge what ‘best practice’ is within your field then understand what bearing it has upon your own creative voice in terms of the clarity of your message.

What can we expect to see next from you?

I’m currently exhibiting with Curve Gallery in Australia. Later in the year, for the Biennial, I am re-installing a temporary light installation into an Orthodox Jewish cemetery in Kensington, Liverpool and next year I’ve a solo show at the Walker. So the journey continues.

via – Open the City | Open Magazine.

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