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Katherine Roberts – Featured Artist of the Month

Katherine Roberts is an Art History graduate who embarked on her career as a sculptor in 2016 when she graduated from the University of Hertfordshire with a Foundation Degree in Fine Art Practice. She has been a fellow at Digswell Arts for 7 months and works from her studio at the Fenners Building in Letchworth.  Katherine works with fabric and latex to create soft sculptures that entice audiences to interact with them, she has exhibited in London and Hertfordshire and was artist in residence at Courtyard Arts last August.

1) How would you describe your current practice (e.g. materials, techniques, themes, key questions, approach)?

I make what I describe as performative sculptures; these works take up space or behave in a way that entices audiences to interact with them. I like to makes sculpture to be touched, the physical relationship with each person completes the work, and sometimes changes it slightly, it’s a way of building a connection with others. I am a practising Christian and my work begins as an exploration of the relationship between myself and God. I try to communicate something about my experience of being in a body and about the essence of our existence. Themes in my work are transformation, brokenness, healing, bodily memory and touch. I work by recording my personal experiences and dreams through writing and drawing. I use passages from the bible, collect stories from people and from fiction and I research prayer practices and use medical information about the central nervous system and haptics to inform aesthetics and concepts.

2) What are you working on at the moment (forthcoming exhibitions, events, workshops etc)?
At the moment I am working on planning an exhibition with another artist for later this year which will focus on the body. I run a life drawing class at the Fenners building once a month. I am currently focused on research for a new project and I am exploring possible film and performance venues as part of this.
 
3) What are your plans for the coming year?
This year I will be exploring the relationship between the sculptural and performance elements of my practice more closely. I plan to do some live performances, recorded video works and collaborate with photographers.
 
4) What is the question you get asked most about your work and how do you answer it?
I am often asked how my work is made, particularly the latex pieces. I enjoy explaining and demonstrating the different ways that I use liquid latex as a material in my work and also the meaning the process and end product have.
The latex begins as a liquid and has a pale beige or pink tone, I colour the latex with acrylic paints while in it’s liquid form and then transfer it onto a surface – usually a cellophane but sometimes skin, concrete, slate or wood depending on the texture I want the end ‘fabric’ to have. If I want a particular pattern I will paint free hand in this pattern, if I want a smooth solid surface I will pour onto a board and tip or scrape the latex out into a sheet. The latex cures between 1 hour and 24 hours and is then dusted with baby powder and slowly peeled off the surface like a layer of skin and stitched into it’s final sculptural form. The process is repetitive, slow and often requires uncomfortable working positions.
 
5) What or who inspired you to be an artist and why? 
I am an artist because I have to make, I need to be creative. Making work it is what fills me with satisfaction at the end of a day, even a difficult day in the studio when I can feel mentally exhausted. When I get to share this work and my practice with others it gives me that joy again. I never thought I would be an artist, though I always loved art – I wanted to be a dancer, vet, conservator- in the end I wanted to make a difference to the lives of others and worked in social care for 6 years before I made this career change. I still love movement, intense sometimes repetitive creative processes and I hope that my work will bring something positive into the lives of others, I’ve finally found the right career for me.
 
6) Which artist do you most admire and why? 
Wangechi Mutu is my favourite artist, she works in many different mediums, including sculpture and performance, but I first fell in love with her collages. I admire how she uses rich symbolism in her work to begin a conversation with the audience and how she lures you into challenging narratives with beauty and intricacy. I also admire the work of painter, Marlene Dumas – I first saw her work in the retrospective at Tate Modern in 2015. I still remember the powerful emotions her paintings drew out of me and the honestly in her writing practice, I hope to achieve this level of honesty and vulnerability in my own work.
 
7) How has your relationship with Digswell Arts Trust strengthened your practice as an artist?
Digswell has given me a dedicated space where I can explore my practice and come to work. I enjoy being in a community of artists who support each other and share ideas and influences and skills. I have been wanting to work more with recycled materials and animal skins from road kill, by working with a fellow who has experience in taxidermy I’m more easily able to explore these ideas and expand my practice. I’ve also seen more clearly the relationship between the natural forms in my work and the work of some other fellows who work with landscapes. Being in a community of artists gives me a chance to talk informally about my practice and helps me think through my ideas.

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