We talk to artist Rose Robson about her work for a truly special Halloween project.
The Veuve Clicquot Widow Series is one of the more cultured things you could do this Halloween – as opposed to say dressing as an S&M nurse and drinking green coloured shots (we’ve all been there…). It’s an immersive exhibition curated by SHOWstudio founder and pioneer of fashion film, Nick Knight, and explores several different mediums, one of which is a selection of four SHOWstudio commissioned fashion films with a haunting dimension (because it is Halloween, after all).
There will also be an especially exciting series of curated rooms by pioneering creatives including the legendary tastemaker and Chanel consultant – though she may dismiss that term – Lady Amanda Harlech, who is curating a room around the white witch and looking at early forms of feminism. Elsewhere, maverick designer Gareth Pugh will be lending his trademark dark aesthetic to another of the rooms, and so will an up and coming, and profoundly unique artist, Rose Robson.
Rose graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2012 and specialises in sculpture that utilises, subverts and manipulates the traditional practice of taxidermy; her work plays with anatomical impossibilities, becoming exercises in spatial manipulation that destabilise our expectations of the form and establish her as a fiercely original creative force. If conventional taxidermy is concerned with creating likenesses that nonetheless end up being uncanny in their unfamiliar-familiarity, Rose embraces, and then amplifies, this peculiar otherness with her intricate and deliberately anti-mimetic work. Wonderland got the opportunity to ask Rose about her decision to use skins, her inspirations, and her work for the Widow exhibition.
Taxidermy is an unusual artistic path, can you tell us how you got into it?
While I was studying for my art foundation I was doing a lot of anthropomorphic drawings of birds with human faces, likening them to us. I had a desire to make these drawings 3 dimensional. Around the same time I went to see a show called The Age of the Marvellous at The Crypt in London. It was inspired by the Wunderkammer or Cabinet of Curiosities. I felt like my work fitted in there and taxidermy felt like a natural progression for me. After seeing this exhibition I began working for Polly Morgan who became a huge inspiration to me.
Please say a little about what makes your pieces distinctive?
I make swarm like sculptures out of a range of different bird skins and wings. My practice is mainly process led and involves months of skinning, sculpting and the arrangement of skins.
You’re interested in manipulating pieces into anti-anatomical shapes and silhouettes – what attracted you to working in this way?
Subverting traditional taxidermy, so the forms transcend their most obvious readings, allows the object to become more curious, subtle and complex. I am continuing to explore movement and form, chaos and order, and the beauty inherent in duality.
What artists inspire you: perhaps sculptors are more relevant?
The artists that I continue to be inspired by are Louise Bourgeois, Paula Rego, Francesca Woodman and Hans Bellmer.
What can we expect from the upcoming Veuve Clicquot Widow Series exhibition?
For ‘A Beautiful Darkness’ I have been assigned a room in the old St Martins building which is quite in keeping with my own studio space, very minimal and clinical. I will be making work at my desk throughout the event, surrounded by my own sculptures. I like the idea of people weaving in and out of the sculptures and watching me work. I feel that it will be quite performative, the taxidermy process has always been an important part of my practice that I haven’t yet shown to the public so I am looking forward to seeing the reactions.
Lastly, where do you see yourself in the future? Is taxidermy something you see being at central to your art for some time?
I will continue to utilise skins for as long as I feel necessary. However, I think that the photographic and performative element of my practice will begin to take centre stage, which I feel most excited about.
The Veuve Clicquot Widow Series is on Thursday, 29th October.
WORDS: Benji Walters