St Ives based artist Abigail Robertson creates large scale collage works that explore the memories, moments and physical nature of the Cornish coastline. With a geometric abstract style, Abigail patches together her experiences of time and place, presenting her works as personal records of her surroundings.
Our curator caught up with Abigail, and together they discussed her inspirations, artistic process, and the significance that the colour blue plays in her work.
How would you describe the art that you create?
I would say the art that I create is definitely a process, process is very important within my practice. Each painting goes on a journey and each decision that I make is informed by the last action I did. For example, if I draw a line on the canvas before I cut it out – then I stand back – the next line is informed by the previous one. The same is true when it comes to choosing colours and the way that I sew it all together.
What physical processes do you go through for each piece?
They’re quite experimental. Usually I start by priming the canvas and then cutting out the shapes and then the colours are really just however it turns out. Once the canvas is dried – it's been hung up in the studio to dry – I then put it all back down on the floor. I usually number the backs of them as well and I have a little paper copy [of the design], otherwise it might not make sense and you can’t put it all back together. Once I lay it back down on the floor on the studio I see if the colours work and then I may go back in and realise something or just completely scrap something. But even then it’s quite nice because then I’ve got a nice collection of off-cuts that I can always go back to for another work if I think it’ll fit.
What inspires your art?
Definitely the landscape in Cornwall. When I was living in London I’d almost subconsciously make work that had a horizon line through the middle – and that was without knowing. So when I made the choice to move back to Cornwall, it was really nice, just my journey to the studio each day would inspire me, the colours, I’m so lucky that my studio is on the road to Porthmeor beach. To work a stones-throw to the beach is amazing, and you have that peace and quiet. Well, not really now that it’s summer but back in lockdown it definitely was.
Would you say that your artwork and style has changed since leaving London and since graduating?
Definitely. The colours I use now are a lot more refined, I only really stick with blue – blue and grey tones. Whereas when I was in London I worked with spray paint, so colours that were less natural, brighter, probably a little more chaotic decisions for what I pair together. It seemed to work, but I can’t imagine at the moment [going back to that]. People often ask me “would you ever do anything else other than blue?” because they have a house they want to hang one of the pieces in and it won’t fit with their scheme. I’m not going to move away from what I’m doing at the moment just to sell or to suit people. They are what they are at the end of the day.
What do you want to get across with your work?
I wouldn’t say that I actively try to get a message across but I definitely think that people’s reaction to my work – especially when they see them in person, and because of the scale of the pieces as well – is that it’s all very peaceful. You look at it and you just feel relaxed. And I think that comes from when I’m making them, how I feel, that comes out in the work a lot of the time. It’s kind of like a safe-haven where everything stands still for me, I can just get stuck in and make them and every decision is mine – I have control over every decision and how I want the composition to look.
When did you realise you wanted to become an artist?
Growing up, both of my parents are blind, they both have very limited vision, and I did a lot of textile work when I was at GCSE level and I used to make a lot of stuff you could feel. And even when I was very young I used to make collages to bring home to my parents and they could feel them. So texture has always been something I’ve been kind of intrigued by. And then, I think just being good at something – my textile teacher once told me I have a real eye for colour – and someone giving me a compliment like that, I still remember it to this day and I think that gave me a lot of confidence.
What have you been working on recently?
In the last month or two, I’ve not done much work but it’s given me time to stand back and reflect on it and archive pieces and really look at what it is that I do that I like and what I can do to move that forward. I have a solo show in September in a really great space – it’s an old car warehouse in Penzance – and from now onwards I’ve got ideas for the direction I’m going to go in for that show, so I’m going to try and just get my head down and make things for that. Also, the way that I make my work, before it gets stretched around the frame, some people may question (and I’ve questioned myself) why do I then put it around the frame, so I’m going to work on some more wall-hangings that feel less contained and with less sharp edges within the work. That way I can also keep adding to them, and I want to make a really big one of those – like 4 meters by 4 meters for that show. It’s something different and it’ll make me move in another direction.