1. Hedda Sterne's paintings look like cityscapes and seascapes; heavy with layers of concrete and tar and dirt - or etherial layers of mist and light. 

In a small room just off the main exhibition space - the exhibition shows its 'workings'. Filled with sketches, these drawings share the same quality as static on a television screen, yet they also have a sense of clarity and purpose. The small, fast drawings perfectly described a moment in time; using her own deft short-hand, Sterne would translate these frantic sketches into abstract, meditative, painterly surfaces.

 

Having digested the dense drawings - moving back out into the main exhibition space - the paintings were transformed. In each you could now sense the humidity, temperature and time of day; rather than being explorations of paint or colour - cool, abstract and hostile - they were descriptive, inviting and meaningful. 

2.     "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today"

Just two frames short of finishing a roll of film - I had planned to take several to be developed all at once. Then the world changed and photo developing became non-essential, so the rolls are still waiting...

3. Having spent many hours in art-world White Cubes, I have grown bored of minimalist interiors - and so, have started a collection of embroidered textiles and furnishings.

Textiles are a delicate, slow way of storytelling. You have to simplify an image, turning it into a hieroglyph or symbol, in order for it to 'read' properly.

 

Embroidered images have a naive, childlike quality, no matter how sophisticated the technique or motif. I am more and more interested in emotional, direct works of art - avoiding sleek, cool images in favour of things that evoke joy and tenderness.

 

I have been thinking about how to unlearn 'art' - how to be more instinctive and intuitive. Tupaia was a Tahitian-Polynesian navigator who sailed the Pacific with James Cook, who also made charming watercolour paintings that documented this epic journey. These paintings are powerfully descriptive - filled with detail, without being weighed down by it. 

"... she once showed me some of the drawings he made when he was ten or twelve: little sketches of birds pecking at the ground, of his face, round and blank, of his father, the local veterinarian, his hand smoothing the fur of a grimacing terrier ...

... [He] went to art school to learn how to draw...[He] got worse and worse. By the time the first term had ended, he had grown too self-conscious to draw. When he saw a dog now, its long fur whisking the ground beneath it, he saw not a dog but a circle on a box, and when he tried to draw it, he worried about proportion, not about recording its doggy-ness."

 

P164-165, A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara

4. An invitation to draw more: 

Arch2O-Pink-Landscape-08.jpg

5. London is pink with cherry blossoms

6. In my first year at art school I drew a portrait of my grandfather, studying his lined, fat-less face - and the Robertson nose that my dad and I share with him.

A love of photography, history and storytelling are also shared on this side of the family; my father put together a photo album as a 90th birthday present, filled with stamp-sized professional photos from the '40s, as well as blurry records of his time in the RAF and snapshots of birthday parties and graduation ceremonies in the 80s. The humble Scottish houses that he inhabited throughout his life were all present, as were the many characters that had lit up his life - a glimpse of whom would inspire him to retell any number of brilliant stories.

 

At 90, my grandfather's memory was far more impressive that my own - I have to stop telling stories half way through because I've forgotten its structure or ending - but grandad could recall events with immense precision. An obsessive reader, he possessed PhD-level knowledge of the war that had affected his own life, for good and for bad. 

At the beginning of the war, my grandmother escaped Russia, moving to Scotland when she was 16. She never returned and she never again saw her family - setting up a life in the Highlands with my grandfather, having two children and attempting to quench her thirst for knowledge, qualifications and constant change.

***

 

I sent the portrait that I drew to my dad, which he in turn, sent to his dad. My drawing hung above the fridge in my grandfather's house for many years, and when we went to help him move into a new home, I hung it on the wall myself, on a thin strip between the hallway and the living room. After my grandfather died, the portrait went to my aunt, where it hangs in the dining room, on one side of a bay window.

 

Before leaving to return to London, my aunt peeled open the photo album my father had made - handing me a photograph of my grandmother, and so, another portrait must be drawn.

Something to hang on the other side of the window. 

7. I wrote a short story about summers that I have spent drawing people - mostly my sister - napping in the sun or slouching in deck chairs.

 

These drawings conjure more vivid memories that photographs do; even a fragmented, half-finished line drawing holds more precise, detailed information for me than a photograph of the same moment in time. 

How to document an experience?

How to capture detail and emotion?

How to actively look rather than passively observe?

8. I have been researching keepsakes - pieces of jewellery that are designed to hold memories. The Victorians were obsessed with keepsakes - portrait miniatures, eye portraits, lockets - all objectively beautiful items that had a greater meaning for the wearer. Gifts that act as a reminder of a place, a person or time passed.

9. One last trip to Bournemouth to have lunch with my parents pre-lockdown.

 

Mum cooked her own birthday dinner, and we cleared our heads the next day on a long beach walk - finished with a pint of cider in the pub.  

10. Tim Stoner's paintings read as schizophrenic. Verdant landscapes and sun-baked village scenes are disrupted with amorphic shapes and swirling lines that explode across the surface of the canvas, radiating outwards like the aftermath of an accident or argument.

 

Keenly aware that there are two distinct paintings on each canvas - the surfaces feel worked, over-worked, scraped back and reworked, all in the search for balance. Tensions form between the layers - between the different scales, subjects and stories -  some melt together, whilst others continue to fight.

11.        Book, newspaper, podcast.

'Lunch with the FT: 52 Classic Interviews'

'How To Spend It'

'Culture Call'

'Spaffed' and 'Profit' by Flying Leaps

rosannaxrobertson@gmail.com​  |  Tel: +44 (0) 7708372956

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