Interview with Zoe Robertson

Interview  /  Artists   Making
Published: 30.01.2015
Interview with Zoe Robertson.
Bridgette Shepherd
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Edited at:
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flockOmania created by Zoe Robertson
. Photo by: Christian Kipp.
flockOmania created by Zoe Robertson
Photo by: Christian Kipp

© By the author. Read Copyright.

Jewellery artist, Zoe Robertson, discusses the inspirations and processes of her artistic practice in relation to her upcoming solo exhibition, flockOmania, at the Lanchester Gallery in Coventry, UK.  Zoe highlights the bringing together of jewellery and contemporary dance to create an interactive performing arts showcase and how this influenced the installation of work and the audience's experience.
What inspires your current creative practice?
I love making! I have an inherent desire to experiment, playing with materials and processes. I use my hands to design via making and solve three dimensional problems. Discovering something new and seeing something come to fruition is enjoyable and rewarding.  Being open to new possibilities and most recently collaborations with other talented artists across alternative practices has been highly inspirational.
Tell us about your upcoming exhibition at Coventry University’s Lanchester Gallery, flockOmania.
flockOmania is my first solo exhibition hosted at the Lanchester Gallery in Coventry, UK, from Monday 19th January 2015 - Thursday 19th February 2015.  It showcases a new body of work which explores the notion of Jewellery and Performance and has been generated in response to a collaborative relationship with dance artists Dr Natalie Garrett Brown and Amy Voris.  The resulting wearable objects have been meticulously handmade using a mix of traditional craft skills in combination with industrial processes and new technology and are theatrically-sized to emphasize and explore themes relating to the scale and movement of the body.

 Zoe Robertson in the Making Process

What was the objective of your collaboration with dance artists, Dr Natalie Garrett Brown and Amy Voris?
Personal motivation comes from the desire to challenge my thinking and making skills. I have been incredibly lucky to have participated in wonderful group shows, which has led to a rich CV of exciting exhibitions over the last decade.  The downside to this is that often my jewellery gets made in my studio, sent to the exhibition and then return back to me at the end of the show. I’m left wondering how the viewer/wearer responded to the jewellery and I have very little interaction with the audience. Therefore I wanted to counteract this and invite the audience, to touch, to play, to wear, and to explore the objects I’ve created rather than purely looking at them through a glass cabinet.
The dance artist’s background in contemporary dance, movement improvisation and site based performance has provided the catalyst for this body of work. Whereby the design process has been led by a sustained dialogue and observations of this practice.
This relationship has enable me to examine closely the objects in relation to the body and create work in which their body movements activate the objects, bringing the work to life. During this time I noticed a distinct change in the direction of the work whereby the tactility, sensuality, sensory and physicality of the objects became of primary importance and the underlining vocabulary for my decisions. Thereby the subsequent work focuses more closely on kinaesthetic sensations and explores several key themes including scale, extensions, space, movement, balance, weight, and dual wearability.

flockOmania created by Zoe Robertson
Photo by: Christian Kipp
With aims to challenge the traditional notion of jewellery display, what considerations did you make towards the installation of the exhibition? 
Responding to the beauty found within the architectural landscape of the Lanchester Gallery has been challenging, not a typical jewellery gallery, this barren industrial space and unrestricted environment has offered limitless possibilities. This on one hand has enabled my imagination to run riot however the scale of this venture in the relatively short period has been at times unnerving. This freedom has led to constant questioning and continued evaluation to inform decisions.  Such as how will the dancers navigate the space? How will the work be displayed to enable interaction? How do I illustrate the working process? Etc
I wanted the objects to hang freely to invite touch and to enable the dance artists and audience to move amongst the work and also move the Jewellery around the exhibition.  Therefore the scaffolding structure provides a visual framework within the space and allows the audience to move through and under the suggested walls. The work is harnessed onto the framework and quick release clips enable the work to be removed easily from the structure.
Invigilators have been trained to encourage the audience to interact and to touch the objects, which can be unnerving for the audience going against how we are conditioned to react within a gallery or museum environment. Lighting was also essential to create a warm and inviting atmosphere which can be seen through the large windows out onto the street.
Communicating the making process was also an important decision to offer the audience an insight into how the objects are made and who I am.  So work in progress films capture the making processes and drawings are exhibited in the space.
flockOmania created by Zoe Robertson
Photo by: Christian Kipp

What interactions were you aiming to stimulate between wearable object and performer as well as wearable object and audience?
At the time of writing this I’m not yet sure of the final outcome. The closing finale will bring together other artists as a collaborative improvised performance working across art forms of sound, light, photography and film artists these artists will create an atmospheric, dynamic environment within which the dancers will explore the ever- changing relationships between object, body and space.
The challenge I now face as a maker is to let these pieces live.  As a perfectionist with a scrupulous jeweller’s eye for attention to detail, it will be anxious moment to let go of the intensive relationship of making these objects. The notion of exploring these objects in the context of performance and dance inevitably means they will start to accumulate scuffs, marks, wear, tear and traces of time. These traces will hint at a life lived and these objects will start to gain a sense of their own history beyond the making process. It will be interesting to see how comfortable I am with this as a maker, will I experience a sense of freedom, wonderment and enjoyment at seeing these objects leave the confines of the workshop or in contrast will it be a nailing biting moment of trepidation as I watch the dancers explore these objects?
flockOmania created by Zoe Robertson
Photo by: Christian Kipp

What do you think the possibilities are for contemporary art jewellery beyond the field (or boundaries) of wearability?
That’s an interesting question; working collaboratively has challenged my thinking beyond materials and visual aesthetics seen previously in my work. I’ve explored more conceptual ideas with functional considerations and problem solving playing a key part.  Alongside this project I have been working on another collaboration with a musician which has led to some exciting results.
Therefore, I feel that looking outside your own discipline is essential to fresh thinking and working on the boundaries of our field is exciting and stimulating.
Within my teaching role at the School of Jewellery the course aims to encourage our students to be pioneers, to challenge their preconceived ideas and to instill a personal confidence to help them think beyond conventions and for them to expand their horizons……..  So for me the possibilities are endless.
As this series of work is a new direction for your artistic practice, what is next?
This exhibition offers me a tantalising new direction; it’s hoped it will trigger further work of this nature and new collaborative endeavors.
I’m hoping that flockOmania will have the opportunity to tour and the collaboration will continue as I feel we have lots more to explore and discover.

flockOmania created by Zoe Robertson
Photo by: Christian Kipp
flockOmania finale
Zoe Robertson
© By the author. Read Copyright.