Q&A with Cameron Robbins - Art Collector

Cameron Robbins, Anemograph,Crux, 2015, Giclee or Type-C photograph, on rag paper edition of 5 + 1 A/P. 160 x 100cm. Courtesy the artist and MARS Gallery.

Art Collector speaks to artist Cameron Robbins about his latest exhibition at MARS Gallery, Melbourne until November 18, 2017.

Your work harnesses the forces of nature – primarily wind – in order to create its unique aesthetic fluidity. How important is the connection with the natural world to your practice?

Nature is incredibly important - it’s the most complex, the most mysterious, the most beautiful. We need to look closely and learn from our observations; it’s my own benchmark for beauty and balance. I’ve been working with the natural world and the interface with culture for the past 35 years. I have a natural respect for scientists, as it’s my understanding that the scientific process also follows super-detailed nature observation.

Through my work, I’m trying to connect to landscape, and to the greater dynamic of the whole earth-climate system; how patterns move through a particular location.

Your 2016 exhibition Field Lines was shown at Tasmania’s MONA. Did the landscape surrounding that particular space inspire any new threads in your work?

A lot of my work has responded to particular sites so MONA is a perfect place for that kind of approach. The museum itself represents a commitment to its place. The architecture and position on the Derwent Estuary really set the scene for my site-based responses. Some of my work for that exhibition actually responded to the site energies of geomagnetism, wind and weather and the tides. In terms of new threads I would say that the success of this site-specific work has just pushed me to continue working with the energies of the natural world and presenting works that challenge architecture and connect the audience with the energies I’m working with.

Cameron Robbins, Mt Jim Magnetic Anomaly, Loops, 2011. Giclee or Type-C photograph, on rag paper edition of 5 +1 A/P, 120 x 80cm. Courtesy the artist and MARS gallery.

While you studied sculpture, drawings and works on paper are a recurrent component of your practice. How has your sculptural background enabled you to utilise the medium of drawing in new ways?

The drawings are like transcriptions of nature and its forces - a bit like how a musician would write down music, which is obviously quite ethereal.

My sculptural studies gave me the background skills to create protoypes and simple machines and instruments. As projects have got more ambitious, I have had to recruit a network of skilled professional technicians to assist with the development and realisation of my drawing instruments.

It’s been so fascinating to work with such powers as the wind and ocean, and try to create mechanical systems which are capable of making delicate marks, but can also withstand a gale force weather event.

Could you tell our readers more about the use of time and temporality within your work?

A lot of the outputs from the drawing instruments are time-based. A wind drawing may take 60 hours, a week, one hour to create - depending on the weather conditions and other factors. The photographs are always long-exposure, usually 10 minutes or less, to allow a light drawing to accumulate. other projects have involved tidal devices with a drawing surface which rotates in sync with the moon - once every 29 days - so we have a super slow event. It’s always been one of my challenges, to communicate the passage of time in a work that is only viewed for a few minutes.

Cameron Robbins, Wind Section Instrumental 2013-2014. Wind drawing, duration 9 days pigment ink on paper. 503.5 x 75 cm. Photo: Rémi Chauvin Courtesy the artist and MARS gallery.
Do you have any plans for future exhibitions?

I’m currently working on an enormous permanent installation at MONA in Tasmania. It is a large-scale wind-drawing instrument, with connected parts both indoors and outdoors. It’ll be drawing for at least the next 50 years - so we have to work out what happens when I’m gone! I’ve also just released a line of high fashion clothing in the UK in collaboration with Jigsaw.

Emily Grant and Clem Macleod

>> Cameron Robbins show Field Lines continues at MARS Gallery, Melbourne until 18 November.

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