We first discovered the work of Thomas Robson on another art blog and found it quite amusing. We visited his website and viewed all his work closely. We at ArtiumOxide believe that any work of art is indeed art when it is appreciated for its beauty, has some emotional power and also raises important questions about human conditions and sensibilities. Artwork of Thomas Robson is beautiful though it defaces classical works but in its reversal of aesthetics and collision of contrastive elements we do find ourselves in a visual complexity demanding subtle explanations. If, what we just said is a food for thought difficult to swallow, we better get to the artist himself and know more about his creativity in action.
Hello there! My name is Thomas Robson, an art school graduate and my professional background is that of a BBC television graphic designer. At present I an experimenting with multi-faceted re-interpretive image making. I work in a rural location situated near Belfast, Northern Ireland.
My favourite things include reading, theatre and the outdoors. Frequently visiting the Crom Estate in County Fermanagh to spend time walking in the woods and rowing on the lakes. Or alternatively journeying to the North Coast of Northern Ireland and visiting the never disappointing Mussenden Temple and Demesne.
When did you develop a keen interest in art?
My work is a direct creative reaction to my professional background as a television graphic designer. In which I became increasingly uneasy with producing a highly edited and curated visual language. An unease which started me experimenting with multi-faceted art remixing.
I began experimenting with collage around a year ago initially using it as a precursor technique to better develop my paintings and illustrations compositions. Although I had not used the technique before to any great extent, I quickly became aware of its power to dynamically reform, recycle and remix imagery to create compelling new compositions invested with additional layers of visual complexity.
Aesthetically the results were pleasing enough but what really began to pique my interest in continuing to explore collage image making. Was the fact that such images with their dynamic visual interventions, were clearly capable of provoking a heightened visual and critical response.
This outcome interests me greatly and is driving me to experiment with using more dynamic juxtapositions of form and colour. In the order to create more powerful images which better engage viewers and more critically, radically improve the aesthetic quality of my image making. This is only the beginning of what I hope will become a very exciting creative journey.
What is your artist’s statement? What is its effect on your personal life?
I don’t have any great overarching philosophy about my work, at present as it is in it’s very early stages of development, and I prefer not to create a lot of laboured pretentious BS around it. Rather I am happy to be driven at by a hunger to create pictures which appeal to me and stimulate further iterations of image making.
So right now I don’t want to think too deeply about the work rather I want to focus upon creating hybrid images, which better subvert the essentially artificial boundaries between fine art and graphic design. The appropriate time for deeper refection will come later in my development.
Although not on my website at present my true interest lies in the physicality of painting and drawing.
Whilst digital collage is an important element of my work at present, returning to painting remains my primary goal. I suppose it’s the feeling that digital techniques can only take one so far and that the real magic of image making, still resides in the powerful alchemy that takes place when creativity interacts with the physical techniques and mediums of painting and drawing. It doesn’t mean that digital art is in anyway inferior, rather I see traditional techniques as complementary.
In the final analysis I feel an urgent need to rediscover the freedom I last experienced at Art School, when the essentially false boundaries between graphic design, digital techniques and traditional art techniques were dispensed with.
How do you create your artwork and how much time does one take on average?
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. Using scans. photography etc. to rapidly create multiple versions of compositions with new intersections of form and colour. A process 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 image making is moving in the right direction.
Is there any theme that you would you like to exploit in your art?
I love the power, bravery, stark and uncompromising aesthetics of Kasimir Malevich’s Black Square and Supremus Series. Google him and look at the images and take some time to consider the cultural context and date of their execution.
These pictures nearly a century later still represent full throttle foot to the floor image making, not giving a damm for what went before and what was acceptable to the art establishment.
Kasimir Malevich summed up his work’s essence thus:
“I understand the primacy of pure feeling in creative art. To the Suprematist, the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling, as such, quite apart from the environment in which it is called forth.”
That is what I seek to do with my image making. I want my pictures to act as catalyst to invoke a heightened visual response inviting viewers to look closer at the pictures, and in so doing bring an enhanced visual literacy in their reading of images.
This can often result in highly polarised reactions ranging from the hostile to the considered. But regardless of the opinion it proves that such images have the power to evoke new reactions, and to transition people away from the highly codified norms of how to read representational ‘traditional’ pictures and portraits.
Tell us something about your style. How distinct is it from that of other artists?
I don’t think my work is unique as there is a growing cohort of designers and artists who are combining and remixing appropriated fine art imagery. Creating a school of hybrid compositions in which the use of appropriated pictures combined with fresh visual interventions. Attempt to subvert the highly restrictive hierarchical cultural carapaces of how such pictures are traditionally “read”.
In my case I call it Collision Art and although in a nascent state, this compositional experimentation is beginning to produce images (to my eyes) invested with increasingly interesting and resonant aesthetics. But why my choice of collage techniques?
Collage image making provides me with the fastest technique to exploit appropriation art, allowing me to rapidly explore and iterate new compositions. Subverting the source images with new layers of visual forms, colours and meanings. Interventions requiring a more nuanced reading of the images on the part of the viewer, whilst in parallel allowing the original images to be liberated from their original cultural carapaces.
What equipment do you mostly use?
Acrylic Paints, Coloured PencilsScanner, Nikon Camera, Wacom Tablet and Apple Mac Pro.
What have been your achievements? Your clients?
Given my limited success so far in getting exposure and gallery participation I can’t really comment on this question at present. All I can advise other artist/designers 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 99% plus of your work and realize it is capable of radical improvement you are not trying hard enough.
To a degree but it is for the individual viewer to reach their own opinion. Which for me has resulted in a very exacting and critical rocess. In my case reaction has ranged from: “my five year old could do that”, to “Rare is it that we find such conflict focused in one artwork. Often we search for unities amidst the disjuncture, harmony among discord, but through the sheer contradiction of these images, Robson sets out a genuine challenge to our interpretative skills”.
What are your views on contemporary art scene?
I am not really equipped to comment as my focus is really on colliding graphic design with fine art to create images which resonate with me. So I am outside the formal art nexus.
Plus working in a rural Irish location means one is very removed and thus dislocated from any form of vibrant contemporary art scene). In essence I am plowing my own creative furrow and my main motivation continues to be to create images which resonate with me.
After all ours is an increasingly raucous visual culture and its important that we as viewers don’t blunt our critical abilities. We need to continue to question images and not just consume them passively, within the constrictions of received proscribed norms of how images should be read.
In my case this has acted as a powerful creative catalyst leading me to experiment with creating new visual perspectives. Through juxtaposing new visual interventions on existing figurative works of art, (encumbered with all sorts of cultural baggage as to how they should be read).
What are your future plans and ambitions. Is there any project in mind?
I am really excited about a couple of new projects which 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.
I tend not to look at other artists work so that I can better 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.
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.