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Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Interview with Thomas Robson







q)Introduce yourself, name,age, location.


a)Hi! My name is Thomas Robson ( http://www.thomas-r.com ) and my professional background is that of a BBC television graphic designer, who is now experimenting with multi-faceted art remixing and re-interpretive image making. I work in a rural location situated near Belfast, Northern Ireland.


q)Can you describe your path to being an artist? When did you really get into it?


a)It is as a creative reaction to my increasing unease of working in broadcast television, creating a highly edited and curated visual language which although seeming very real to viewers, is in fact a highly selective edit of imagery. Which deliberately sets out to blur viewers’ ability to differentiate between the contrived world and the real one.

I began to wonder how I could make individuals question pictures more deeply and in doing so, develop enhanced critical skills in their reading and interpretation of imagery.
As my initial creative response I began thinking about taking familiar images and imposing change on them to create an Art Remix. A creative approach which enables me to author images, invested with the power to provoke heightened aesthetic and critical responses.
I am experimenting with fusing fine art & photography imagery with the visual language of graphic design, to create new categories of art composition. In which new layers of visual interventions are used to reconstruct and transform the significance of images, place them in new contexts and in so doing make new demands on the viewer.
It is an approach which seeks to short circuit peoples’ common interactions with representational fine art & photography. Forcing them to question images more intently, and in so doing develop enhanced critical skills and visual literacy.
Striping away the traditional and highly restrictive carapace of how fine art and photography should be read, and subverting it with a new highly accessible visual language. Which is more accurately reflective of our highly edited, curated, media remixed and visually saturated world.


q)Describe your ideals and how they manifest in your work.


a)As with any design response, my art work exists within the context of the major influences that shaped my creative life. Having lived through 30 years of sectarian conflict here in Northern Ireland, I am highly sensitive to the repressed emotions and hidden meanings which underpin many social interactions and conversations.
This search to discover the hidden or the repressed voice has always informed my reaction to the highly representational portraits of western art. To my eyes they always evoke questions of what informed their production, just how accurately do the finished pictures conceal or reveal the sitter’s true identity, the artists personality and indeed how such pictures strive to totally extinguish the context of their production in the studio.
From the democratic and more open contexts of today, it is as if the concept of creative expression was repressed by a slavish adherence to a highly codified academic style of painting. Visual language was defined and corralled in a rigid hierarchical structure, by a self appointed aesthetic elite who had appropriated the power to adjudge and frame what was good and bad art, and in doing suppress and control artistic and creative expression. It is this suppression of expression and selective edit of social memory that creatively excites me.
In this context we may be talking about the reading of fine art imagery, but hidden meanings and repressed emotions still govern many of our interactions whether in political, family or personal terms.
Such pictures to me represent a highly stylised shield behind which the true meaning of the image resides, and it is the interrogation of these hidden meanings which resonates with me and in so doing provokes a powerful creative reaction.
Stimulating me to explore how I can radically transform such images, by the imposition of new layers of visual intervention. To create powerful multi-layered compositions, which actively solicit and excite heightened levels of viewer engagement. Subliminally investing people with the desire to question images more critically, and extrapolate their own meaning from the pictures.

q)Is music a part of your studio time? What do you listen to?


a)Yes music is important in the background as I work, but I have to say that I spend most of my time listening to the spoken word, especially drama and comedy programmes on the BBC iPlayer.  Alternatively I default to some of the great ambient online radio stations delivered via. Songbird & Shoutcast.


q)How would you describe your work to someone?


a)Art Remixing is the most accurate definition of my studio process, I create pictures whose compositions are designed to actively solicit a visual reaction, and encourage viewers to question images more critically, and to allow them to discover and contemplate their own interpretations and feelings about the changed elements, their visual interdependencies, and relationships with the original images.
Because in an increasingly visually saturated world of highly edited and curated images, being continuously pushed towards us as media consumers. It is of crucial importance that people develop enhanced media savvy, powers of visual literacy and observation.
So that they can more accurately interpret what they are seeing in the ocean of imagery which daily bombards us. Images which a lot of the time media companies and governments would like us to consume in as passive and uncritical manner as possible.
It is this enhanced visual literacy my pictures seek to stimulate and develop, through the creation of new dialogues with pictures unteathered from their original context and overlaid with new layers of imagery.


q)Influences?


a)I try not to let other artists work influence me so that I can concentrate on developing my own visual language. Of course like most designers/artists daily web browsing exposes me to a multitude on imagery, which must subconsciously have an effect.

Though if I had to name my favorite visual/creative watering hole it would be  http://www.gestalten.com/new/all. As this site dynamically displays fresh work, artists interviews and great selection of art & design publications. It’s a great resource for anyone who wants to keep their finger on the pulse of emerging developments across the disciplines of visual arts and design.


q)Describe your process for creating new work.


a)Initially I spend considerable time and resources researching and collating imagery, in order to give me the fuel to power the development of highly iterative visual experiments. Which rapidly create multiple versions of compositions and assist me in accelerating the creation of new intersections of form and colour. Continuously driven forward by my ongoing creative dissatisfaction with what I produce during this period of creative flux.

This dissatisfaction has positive benefits however as it acts as a powerful catalyst to drive my creative thinking and experimentation ever forwards, in the search for better aesthetic outcomes. I am never really satisfied with what I produce and every month brings improvements in the quality of work I create, which is a pretty good indication that my art is moving in a positive direction.



q)What advice do you have for artists looking to show their work?


a)Given my lack of success so far in getting a gallery show I can’t really comment on this question. All I can advise other artists to do is to persevere and spend as much time as you can promoting yourself and your work. Get the word out, accept and learn from constructive criticism and never ever give up!

Because if you can’t look back at 90% plus of your work and realise it is capable of radical improvement you are not trying hard enough.



q)What are you really excited about right now?


a)I am really excited about a couple of new projects I am developing, which I hope will radically improve the quality of my imagery. Via the use of more sophisticated forms of visual interventions and compositional techniques.

To aid me in this creative journey I am hungry to apply traditional craft techniques, and incorporate more physical painting and drawing into my pictures. Whilst at the same time confronting and crossing the essentially artificial boundaries between fine art and graphic design, which even at this early stage in my artistic journey is creating a powerful creative flux. Using the imposition of graphics and collage to recycle and remix current reality to generate transitory new forms of imagery.

These endeavors are helping me address my gnawing hunger to improve and discover new iterations of image making, which better capture my creativity and assist me in creating a coherent and increasingly sophisticated aesthetic language.

It’s going to be quite a ride and an exciting creative journey! So keep checking  http://www.thomas-r.com for updates and new releases of pictures.



q)What do you love most about where you live?


a)Proximity to a wonderful coastline with a great range of scenery, and easy access to spectacular countryside. (I always find being outside and submerging oneself in beautiful scenery acts as a powerful catalyst for developing creativity).


q)Best way to spend a day off?


a)Head to the Crom Estate in County Fermanagh ( http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/crom/) and spend some time walking in the woods and rowing on the lakes there, or alternatively journey to the North Coast and visit the never disappointing Mussenden Temple and demesne. http://www.virtualvisit-northernireland.com/gallery.aspx?dataid=72001&title=Castles_and_Monuments


q)Upcoming shows/ projects?


a)I have no shows in the diary at present as I have yet to have a gallery approach me with an exhibition request.

As a result I am concentrating on seeing if I can establish a constructive relationship with a proactive gallerist who recognises the potential of my work, and who can provide me with support, and perhaps more critically can help me gain additional exposure in the art world. (Working here in Belfast can make one feel very removed and dislocated from any form of vibrant art scene).

As mentioned previously I have new projects underway and will be publishing them on Thomas-r.com soon.


q)Where can people see more of your work on the internet?


a)My website can be found at  http://www.thomas-r.com and I update the selection pictures on a regular basis. So if you are interested in my work please pay me a visit.




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