Sunday 7 February 2016

FREDDIE ROBINS       A Few Questions and Answers

Freddie Robins’s practice questions conformity and notions of normality; intersecting the definable categories of art, craft and design. She uses knitting to explore pertinent contemporary issues of the domestic, gender and the human condition; finding knitting to be a powerful medium for self-expression and communication because of the cultural preconceptions surrounding it. Her work subverts these preconceptions and disrupts the notion of the medium being passive and benign. Her ideas are often expressed through an exploration of the human form and have resulted in series such as Odd Gloves and Odd Sweaters. These works question physical normality, incorporating humour and fear, a reoccurring theme in her work. The titles are integral to the work; a play on words to enhance the material objects.

Through the recent process of converting a 16th century barn into a home and studio, her approach to making and materials has radically shifted. Her most recent series of works, Out on a Limb and Collection of Knitted Folk Objects, have developed from a new expedient approach to making, utilising samples and surpluses, things donated, inherited and found. The finished pieces evolve from the materials and processes as opposed to being designed and made. 

Bad Mother  2013
Can you describe your practice in a few words?
I predominatly work with knitting to produce objects that explore contemporary issues of the domestic, gender and the human condition, as well as cultural preconceptions surrounding knitting as craft.
What is your earliest memory of art?
My earliest memory of art, in the form of creativity, material and skill, came from my godmother, Pamela Darking, who was a fantastic needlewoman. She is my greatest inspiration and I wish that she were still alive for me to share my creative journey with. I would love to know what she thought of my work.
Have you shown your work in a non white cube space before?
Over the years I have shown in a number of non-traditional spaces including the Quarry Gardens at Belsay Hall in Northumberland, the Minories Gallery in Colchester, which is in a listed Georgian building, and our own 16th century timber framed barn and outbuildings. I have also shown at Sluice_Art Fair twice, which has been held in various raw, warehouse spaces around London and in Brooklyn, New York.
What does this sort of space bring to your work?
I enjoy the extra layers of texture and meaning that it can add to my work. I also enjoy seeing how a different space, or a different cultural approach, can affect my pieces.
Does the environment in which you exhibit your work change how your work is perceived?
Yes, but not always in a positive way. Sometimes my work disappears into the background or the meaning gets completely lost in an overpowering environment.
What was your first experience of King's Cross? 
I think it must have been when I first moved to London to study at Middlesex Polytechnic in the early 80's, I would spend every week-end exploring London; it's galleries and museums. I would often take a bus (number 73) through the area and later I would be constantly cycling through it to the Royal College of Art or my studio.
What is the future for art?
I don't know, and I don't want to, but I look forward to being part of it.
If you could meet one artist living or dead, who would that be and why?
I am fearful about answering this question. For a very long time I had wanted to meet Louise Bourgeois; attend one of her weekly salons. I managed to do this when I was exhibiting in New York in 2007, a few years before her death, and only a short while before she ceased holding her salons. It was a great disappointment to me and left me feeling very sad. She was far weaker than I expected given the stories that were in the press about her and how she still made work. She was 'hardly there'. I felt I had missed her.
What is your greatest weakness?
Sleep and chocolate.
What was the last exhibition you visited that unnerved you?
The Crime Museum Uncovered-at the Museum of London, but admittedly I went because I wanted to be unnerved. The sight of the nooses hanging in a row, especially as one rope was used to hang Mary Pearcey, who is featured in my series, Knitted Homes of Crime (2002), was particulary moving.
What place do aspects of traditional craft play in your work?
I am very inspired by traditional craft. I trained in textiles craft skills and still employ them in my work through knitting, crochet and embroidery.
Who have been your main influences over the years, both in historical and recent terms?
I have been inspired by a number of artists; Caroline Broadhead, Annette Messager, Sophie Calle and of course Louise Bourgeois.
What projects have you got coming up in the future?
I am currently completing a commission for the exhibition, What do I need to do to make it OK? The exhibition opened at the Pump House Gallery in Battersea Park, London last August and is now touring. The show is being re-curated for each space with commissioned work being added throughout the tour. (More information about exhibition and tour can be found here  WHAT DO I NEED 
I will also have a postcard work in Stewarts Law Secret 2016 exhibition, which opens in April. This is the annual exhibition and sale of original postcard sized artworks, by internationally acclaimed artists, plus up and coming graduates from the Royal College of Art. The secret is that all postcards are displayed anonymously, so viewers don't know the identity of the artist until they have made their £55.00 purchase. Beyond this I have lots of ideas that I want to explore and research that I want to undertake but being superstitious I don't like to talk about them until they are well under way and safe from harm and influence!

Limb  2013

Freddie Robins is an artist who challenges our perception of knitting as craft. Her work is internationally renowned, her practice crossing the boundaries of art, design and craft. She lives and works in Essex and London. She studied at Middlesex Polytechnic (1984-87) and the Royal College of Art (1987-89) where she is now Senior Tutor and Reader in Textiles.

She predominantly produces work for public exhibition, most recently What do I need to do to make it OK? Pump House Gallery, London, Liberties, Collyer Bristow Gallery, London and Sex Shop, Transition Gallery, London. Last year she exhibited at Sluice_2015 art fair at OXO Tower Wharf, London with the Blackwater Polytechnic, an organization that she established with fellow artist, Ben Coode-Adams, to explore and promote other Essex based artists. In 2012 she was on the UK shortlist for the prestigious Women to Watch exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, USA.

Her work is held in private and public collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, Crafts Council, Nottingham Castle Museum, Aberdeen Art Gallery and KODE – kunstmuseene i Bergen, Norway.

twitter @freddierobins


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