Robert Hind has been a successful commercial photographer for many years, but behind this lies a passion for fine art and a dual approach to his career. His series of natural studies use gold leaf to create large scale artworks that capture isolated tree formations on an iridescent background. It's hard to capture the sheer impact of these beautiful works from a distance, so we decided to go behind the scenes and take a closer look, finding out more about his artistic process, inspiration and the techniques used for these stunning pieces.
How did you fall into the world of art?
I studied photography at the London College of Communication and always continued to pursue a twin track approach to my photographic practice. On the one hand I photograph people commercially for marketing and advertising purposes, and on the other I use photography to create my fine artworks. Enjoying them both at the same time keeps the wolf from the door and maintains my interested in a wider photographic art practice.
When did you discover gold leaf?
I first discovered the wonders of gold leaf when I was on holiday in Thailand. While I was there I visited several Buddhist temples and saw statues covered from head to toe entirely in tiny pieces of gold leaf, each piece placed there by different worshippers. It looked completely stunning! I brought home some gold leaf pieces and occasionally I’d chance upon it again as I searched through old picture slides for inspiration. The images of the golden reclining Thai Buddha stayed with me and slowly over the years the idea distilled into me to experiment with gold leaf as a background to print photographs on.
So how does it work?!
To make a gold leaf mixed media print from start to finish, depending on the size, generally takes about 15 hours, and there’s loads of drying time required between each stage. To begin with I cut wood to size before painting it, sanding it and filling any gaps. Next I apply the gold leaf pieces very carefully, this is a painstaking process and a mistake at this stage is critical! Once the gold leaf is securely on, I coat it with shellac varnish to preserve it. Next, I transfer the photographic images using spray glue to secure the ink pigment to the gold leaf. This is another critical stage; errors here regularly cause the abandonment of a piece. Finally, once the ink is transferred and dried I cover it with lacquer to further protect it. I then spot out any flaws, and finally add several coats of glaze, sanding between each layer.
How do you find inspiration for your pieces?
It’s hard to pinpoint one particular place where I find inspiration for my artwork, I like to visit galleries, and I regularly visit botanical gardens. The local florists know me pretty well too; and I try to get out and about in the countryside as often as I can. I guess the main inspiration comes from constantly thinking about photography and what would work well as a picture.
Your artworks decay and change over time as the gold leaf reacts. Is this a feature of the work?
I like the idea of an artwork charging and maturing as it sits on a person’s wall. We as people change and develop, why shouldn’t art? As viewers we often get used to pictures just being there, we almost stop looking at them after a while. However, if that picture keeps changing, albeit very slowly over a period of many years, hopefully the viewer’s awareness and enjoyment of it is elongated.