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Watermans – Preparing the exhibition

I’m preparing work for a solo exhibition Gravitate at Watermans Gallery, London opening June 7th. It will include the light installation Flown, drawings and the very beginnings of new works in maquette form.

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The work will show the relationship between my drawings and light works. It’s the first time I have exhibited a large group of drawings and they range in scale and complexity. Until quite recently I saw them as a ‘backroom’ figuring out process, but they are now joining the light works centre stage.

Flown will be in its largest form responding to light, temperature and humidity. Sean Clark and I have been looking at the final details. Each time we have shown it there have been adjustments and that will no doubt carry on, but there is a sense of arrival and completion.

The new light work maquettes come out of the drawings on show and are prototypes for extensive pieces that will continue to grow. They relate to a new body of work I’m developing in my studio through drawing and model making with funding from Arts Council England.

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Some of the best parts of bringing the work together are the conversations with people I work with. I have an ongoing reflective discussion with my mentor, Professor Linda Candy. Through our mutual persistence I am seeing the benefits of writing about my work. Gaining insights that would not happen in any other way. I really never expected this to happen. It upholds a mantra that crosses my mind most days: ‘Perseverance furthers’.

Sean Clark is my collaborator in extending and developing light works. We spent a great day this week looking at each light piece, working out how far it would go this time and all the things it needs. Our questions were around the relationships between materials, technology and programming. The scope of discussion is ever inspiring and expands my conceptual understanding. There is a drive to get it right for now and emerging ambitions of how it can develop in the future.

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Sorting out the electronics and advising on materials is Luke Woodbury a Creative Technologist I’ve worked with on a number of projects. We look at all the physical parameters focusing on the how materials and light work together. There’s a delight in exploring all the possible solutions, including the simple low-tech answers. Its a real lateral thinking process about what is the best, most straightforward answer to the puzzle.

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In constructing some frameworks I’ve been working with Ian Fuller, a local craftsman/carpenter in Hastings. He is making some of the lightbox and maquette structures for this exhibition. When it’s all in the attention to detail you have to go steadily and mull the whole object over to get it right. It’s invaluable to have someone who carries that part of the work so precisely.

An unexpected development has been working with the Denise Lancaster at Carbon Framing. She has clarified an important perspective on the work. When I am drawing with rules, structures emerge and despite my best efforts I often find the lines flying off the side of the paper

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I have assumed that I will rectify this by a framing device. But this was the very thing she pointed to as a vital element in the work. ‘These images have grown through a process, if you straighten them they lose their movement and integrity.’ The drawings will now be largely shown as they appeared on the paper.

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Showing Work

Flown has been to Caerphilly Castle with the Lumen Prize Tour and it was great building it in such an ancient setting. We are now planning for it’s next stop. There were great responses including someone who wrote to me to say it had spurred them on to make their own work again, which is just great.

My exhibition ‘GRAVITATE’ is now online on the Baby Forest Site (https://babyforest.co/rolinson_gravitate).

I am very much looking forward to showing these works that have been building up for around 12 months. They will also be exhibited in ‘real’ spaces over the next year and following this, one of the original drawings will go into Victoria and Albert Museum Digital Art Collection.

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The drawings are the first step in making new light installations as well as works in their own right. I’ve used simple rules in their construction that I see as a kind of visual mantra. I am still directive and instinctive in how it all unfolds but my decisions come back to a number of guidelines that might define choices of curved or straight lines and colour. By doing this I build up a rhythm of work and try to let go of my thoughts to see what emerges. I am curious to take these patterns into movements to programme light structures and am starting to investigate this with Sean Clark.

A first group of works made as part of this process is being from the 7th – 23rd December at the LCB Depot Gallery, Leicester in Sean Clark’s exhibition ‘A CYBERNETIC ECOLOGY’. They will become part of and respond to the system of artworks in the exhibition.

In preparation I’ve been making a detail cut out surface that is a filigree for a light box. I knew when I started that it would be labour intensive, but to be honest nothing could prepare me for the level of concentration required. I used a simple rule of two types of cuts (made with fine wood carving chisels) each repeated three times. To make a square section of about 40cm x 40cm took around 30 hours of hammering. There could not be a mistake or it would show, so I had maintain my attention.

When was making this I could find every reason to be distracted however, with persistence I intermittently found myself absorbed in the process. The funny thing is that without the light shining through it the work is virtually invisible and at the end I can barely believe it took such concentration. It is now fitted to the light box containing rings of repetitively expanding light, a little like ripples in water.

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Good news

In the last two months I have had drawings relating to the light work ‘Thread’ acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum Digital Arts Collection and the light installation ‘Flown’ has won The Lumen Prize 3D Sculpture Award.

The Lumen Prize is a global digital arts prize and all the finalist works will now make a global tour with dates in the UK, China, Europe and America. The challenge will be in finding the best way to transport it, at least in part!

These have been heartening affirmations of the work I’ve been developing through drawing.‘Flown’ was originated from a key pencil drawing that was then evolved with two and three dimensional drawing processes into a large scale work.

I work with an instinctive approach to understand forms, pattern and concepts by drawing out solutions. Most images for ‘Flown’ were of interconnected structures, a little like cells or water droplets in clouds.

Another key part of ‘Flown’ has been my collaboration with Sean Clark. Sean was originally onboard to program the piece, following on from the work that he contributed to ‘Melt’, ‘Splinter’ and ‘Thread’. Gradually a commonality in our conceptual ground emerged.

It is a very interesting creative process as we are both immersed in understanding a sense of connection, but through very different means. Mine is in the physical and felt sense,expressed in marks, rhythms and forms. Sean’s is essentially in creating communication systems between things so that they can influence and be part of each other.

The collaboration expands my practice and something I’m most excited about is that I now see my drawings not only as patterns and structures but also as potentially modes of behaviour and ways of communicating.

I’m now turning towards new work. Over the past six months I have been working intently on a series of new quite complex drawings that I hope will be the start of further light pieces.

I will be showing these initially in an online exhibition on the creator space Baby Forest starting in the beginning of November.

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‘Flown’ at Art CHI 2016

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I’ve recently been at the CHI 2016 Conference in San Jose, California where Flown was accepted into the first Art CHI exhibition.  This version of Flown is interactive and developed in collaboration with Sean Clark. The piece was on a smaller gallery scale and was much easier to install, although there is still plenty to do when responding to building and shaping a piece right in the gallery. It had the addition of sensors to influence the light’s movement – so it was responding to changes in temperature, light levels and humidity – making for very delicate patterns tricking and waving through the forms. It was great to see this in action and I’m looking forward to exploring it all further.

This was the first time the conference had an art exhibition as part of the programme and it was met enthusiastically. There was queing on the opening night! The curators had included diverse work ranging from drills responding to hits on the web-site and appearing to spontaneously start up to delicate embroidery with switching magnetised beads – so all credit to Ernest Edmonds and Jason Challas for their vision. As icing to the whole experience Flown was given first prize – although even throughout the install we had no idea there were awards!

You can see a new video of Flown showing both versions on vimeo……https://vimeo.com/168849485

Now I’m back in the studio drawing and preparing work for a Baby Forest online exhibition in the Autumn.

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Making ‘Flown’

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I have made this partly as a mediative practice for my own purposes. As we are nearing the completetion there is so many different types of activity from the simply practicalities of van hire to the nuances of programming and movement. I am completing the cutting and as the process ends I am reflecting on if it has been what I wanted and looked for.

I was perhaps experiencing this more as an endurance test rather than a meditation, then as I was working I noticed a sensation of immense expansion and deep calm that has been on periphery of my experience and is now starting to flood in on making. In the same way as we might leave our everyday experience but still be present this brings a sense of connection with the space around me.

So I am both relieved that the work is ending and have trepidation about its; absence-  in a way all changes have difficulty, even when they are a relief. I have a sense of thrill that I might be able access this work space in myself in the future. To me this expansive sensation has come about through practice – a disciplined repetition. I find it is a safe and tranquil space to make something. It needs you to make it and you have to do it. Like a completed cycle in which the energy and impetus flows. Making this has taught or affirmed that. There is no purpose in wondering whether what you have made is good or bad or will be liked or not. It’s only purpose is to exist and for you to bring that about open heartedly with the skills that you practice and learn about.

I am now packing the work and can see that not all the individual pieces are successful, with a choice I would edit them back but the installation space requires bulk.

As we are getting closer to the installation the effort and attention to detail from everyone in incredible. Each member of this team of people gives there all without exception. Technical set up is being combed over by Luke Woodbury and Faser Kent. Sean Clark and Graeme Stuart are working through the programming . Graeme and I are figuring out how to compose the best set up to give the work the most fluid and interesting lighting through the composition of the real lights and how they are read by the programming virtually.

I am piercing each piece with it’s supporting rod and packing them into enormous sacks. I do not know exactly how the work will look and am curious and nervous to meet it. In making something for the first time there can be no guarantee that it will be greater than the sum of it’s parts. My effort is to not look at the bigger picture but to stay sincerely inside the process, the place I am most at ease to be.

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‘Flown’ in progress

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It’s growing! I think this is about half way. When I started out I lent into the work quite hard and soon found out that this approach was not going to see the distance as after a few days my arm ached too much. So I’m making at a more measured pace and limiting the amount, which means folding 20 pieces a day – around 3 hours work.

It is an experiment to make something by hand on this scale. It is like an extended drawing with the same instinctive approach. I see the lines in the forms in a similar way to pencil marks and am playing with how the shapes connect with each other, wrapping and folding through imagined pathways.

I’ve taken the cutting everywhere with me including the train and the swimming pool. I get up and do them as I go about all the chores of the day. At times I am concentrating on the forms and considering how they work, at others I’m unaware of what I’m doing and it is quite unconscious. Sometimes there is a sense of it being a blissful meditation that I do not want to stop and at the opposite end of the scale some kind of boring monotonous road.

I suspect the process is teaching me a patience about not knowing what the end will be and giving in to a discipline. I do not expect these things to be evident in the work but are in a sense an indulgence and complete pleasure in making simple forms over and over.

My hands are getting quite strong.

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Flown – Lightwork for “Illuminating York”

I’m just starting work on building ‘Flown’ which is going to be a large scale installation for the light festival ‘Illuminating York’ running from 27th – 31st October 2015.

The whole structure is going to be hand cut and folded (all 20 meters of it made from 720 pieces! ). The forms are going to be lit with LED’s running behaviours developed with Dave Everitt, Sean Clarke and Graeme Stuart.

It’s the first time I’ve built something this big by hand and it is taking my drawing practice into 3D. Starting to make it is like stepping into a lake to swim to the other shore knowing that at some point I will be too far to swim back..so here goes I’m dipping my toe in.

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