Our Featured Artist of the Month for June 2020 is Katherine Roberts who is based at the Fenners site in Letchworth.
How would you describe your current practice (materials, techniques, themes, approach)?
I explore the space between sculpture, performance and writing with a particular focus on transformation and bodily experience. Tactility and the weight of an object (perceived or actual) are key considerations in my making process. I thrive on collaborative projects, as they allow me to take greater risks.
My studio space functions as a manifestation of my thinking. I move my work around the studio to discover how different objects relate to each other. I store collected objects, for use in a future work, stacked in corners. Storing them in the open allows me to make intuitive leaps and connections. My space is chaotic and I am prone to knocking things over and spillages. I accept that this is part of the work and of my process; it stops me from having too much control or becoming too precious.
My practice is informed by a desire to minimise the environmental impact of making physical objects. I collect and use packing material, second-hand fabrics, furniture and other ‘rubbish’. I combine these materials with considered use of latex, plaster and printing inks.
What are you working on at the moment (forthcoming exhibitions, events, workshops?
I took down my show ‘Tremble | Tromos’ at the Broadway Gallery in February and I have some work in a group show with Motion Sickness Project in Cambridge (now closed due to COVID).
Prior to lockdown I began a collaboration with photographer Kasia Burke and we hope to continue this working at social distance and exhibit later this year. See some of this work in June in ‘From Our Yard’, a publication produced by artists based at Fenners studios. Made in response to our inability to go ahead with our exhibition ‘In Our Yard’ and Open Studios due to COVID-19 restrictions. We hope to hold this exhibition later in the year (government guidance permitting).
I’m currently working in my small flat in Letchworth rather than at the studio, so I’ve been taking time to reflect, walk, and explore colour for future sculptures.
What are your plans for the coming year?
I’ll be focusing on exploring sculpture’s relationship with performance and interactions with the public. Given the current restrictions, I am anticipating challenges but also an opportunity to push my work in new directions. I also plan to exhibit temporary sculptural interventions outside, I’m interested to see how using community-owned spaces changes the rules that people follow to engage with the work.
What question do you get asked most about your work and how do you answer it?
‘What is it?’ – We all like to have clear answers in our lives, it helps us to feel in control. I like to make work that has different interpretations as to what it is. I often don’t know what something is, I know some of the things that I was interested in when I made it. I’m sure it’s infuriating that in reply to this question I often ask them what they think the work is, or what it is about. I find this leads to much more interesting conversations and also gives me new insights into my work.
What or who inspired you to be an artist? And why?
My original inspiration didn’t come from one instance, it came from a lifelong love of art, including a first degree in Art History, and a desire to radically change my life from the path I was on five years ago. What inspires me to continue to pursue an artistic career are other artists that surround me. I am inspired by their work ethic, their passion and the way that they pursue their ideas creatively.
Which artist do you admire and why?
There are particular works that have impacted on my practice over time. Most recently I was also blown away by Kara Walker’s work in the Turbine Hall at the Tate, this is the first time I’ve seen her work in the flesh. The scale combined, political commentary and depth of meaning are inspiring. It was also great to see an artist working on a large scale articulate concerns about the environmental impact of the work and mitigate this through the choice of materials and production processes.
I am enjoying the work Finnish-Norwegian duo Riitta Ikonen and Karoline Hjorth and their project Eyes as Big as Plates. They go out into rural communities and collect stories about the folklore, people and places and then work with those individuals to create, what I think of as, human sculptures through photographic portraits.
How has your relationship with Digswell Arts strengthened your practice as an artist?
We have a thriving artist community in Letchworth, of which Fenners is a part. Being based here has enabled me to build a support network for my practice. The conversations I have with other artists, curators and the opportunities for mentoring keep me stimulated and offer constructive criticism. This network has given me opportunities to collaborate with other artists which has been invaluable to the development of my work.