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Artist of the week — Robbie Rowlands

August 23, 2011 by · 1 comment

Interview of Yana Radilova with the sculptor Robbie Rowlands

robbie portrait
Robbie Rowlands

What is your attitude towards objects?

Objects to me are in a sense the same as subjects, so when there is something that I want to consider or understand then these two are intertwined. It is hard to find any material that hasn’t had some kind of relationship with humanity. I’m interested in dealing with objects that have the capacity to delve into this relationship and tease out a greater understanding of my place, past, present and future.

A new low - Aluminium Ladder - Robbie Rowlands - 2011
A new low-aluminium ladder
Photo: Devika Bilimoria

What message do you try to convey through your art?

The message sort of swings in and out of clarity picking up different inflections the longer each work exists and the more I delve into my practice. I enjoy challenging each subject I encounter and seeing how far I can push it before you loose a sense of what it was then bringing it back a fraction to linger on the edge. I suppose in life this resembles the risks that maybe necessary to consider what might be possible. I think we all tend to exist at a distance from this edge with any move forward prevented by the fear of what we might loose.

Too much for one - Wheelbarrow - Robbie Rowlands - 2011
Too much for one – wheelbarrow

There is an opening up, a revelation that happens in the process. For me it is a tangible way of experiencing aspects of my identity that seem in any other way impenetrable. Australian history, which my heritage traces back through to the first colonial forces, has been documented in very one dimensional ways. It seems that it is my generation that is the one to start to track back and consider where we have been and who we have affected. So really for my own purpose my practice is in part a way to consider this history and for what is directly in front of me. I think in this process others that experience the work can use it as a way to delve into their own lives, reconsider what is in front of them.

Empty - Steel Bin - Robbie Rowlands - 2011
Empty – steel bin
Photo: Devika Bilimoria

Do you think that everything can be used in art?

Everything pretty much is used in art. I suppose if we are referring to taboo subjects it still would be hard to find anything that hasn’t been considered by artists. In looking at different materials and technologies, artist pretty much experiment with anything new that exists. In a way it is this testing, questioning, exposing by artists that keeps us thinking and feeling.

Deprived - Single Bed - Robbie Rowlands - 2011
Deprived – single bed

What kind of materials do you use in your art?

I select materials direct from the immediate landscape around me. It’s not a case of anything goes. I’m quiet discerning and steer towards materials that tap into an emotion, or memory. They are usually a support mechanism in some way which really once again is anything that humanity has had a relationship with. They tend to have rigid components that have the capacity to be cut and manipulated in to more fluid forms. Really it is endless the possibilities that are out there!

fell for silo
Fell for Silo – Decommissioned Wheat Silo, Pine tree
Photo: John Gollings

How would you define your style?

I don’t know if I could really define my style without feeling like I’m boxing myself into a corner. I suppose I would hate to be described as ‘The guy who cuts things!’ so I better come up with something fast!

As far as I’m concerned, you are also involved in music. What is more satisfying – music or visual arts?

I entered the realm of sound with the idea that it was going to be sculpture. In many ways it was and is an incredible process for creating sculpture. Its parameters are wide and deep and it takes enormous concentration. In this way it has been a fantastic challenge alongside my visual works. I tend to enjoy going between the two with one supplying a well need break from the other. As far as the industries of both are concerned they suffer from the same crippling conditions. I do dream of a day when both run fluidly together and are concentrated on the concerns of my practice but at the moment my sound work is primarily in support of others art and my visual arts is selfishly all mine.

attempt at return
Attempt at return – Aluminum Boat

What is your main source of imagination?

That really is a changeable entity and hard to define. I’m sure that I have a very large pool of ideas but getting to them is at times hard with what life throws at you. I tend to concentrate on putting myself into situations where I have to be resourceful, pressured and have to fight for something to work. It can be an exhaustive and depressing process to go through but there are always great rewards.

upturned chair
Almost resting – Upturned Chair

What award are you most proud with?

Apart from some well need grants and some highly commended awards I haven’t really won any grand awards but I suppose if I was to consider what I have, a beautiful family and freedom to create what I think is important then that must be an award to be proud of.

How do you see the reality?

I suppose reality is seeing through the immediate layer that we see and consider the layers beneath. To try and explain this in some way I think of how you can experience someone, even if they are close, and not realize the pain they maybe be feeling. This could extend to a community or a country. We tend to enjoy a reality that has the capacity to shut this away, gloss it over and present to us a version that doesn’t have the sharp edges or edges at all. I suppose I’m attracted to sites in ruin and materials that are worn out, forgotten places and objects because in these there is a way in. They have cracks you can enter and surfaces that tell stories. There is fragility and vulnerability that seems to undermine the security that we present as a reality. It seems today that this is becoming harder to keep hidden.

To Die With No Fear – Shed Intervention from Robbie Rowlands on Vimeo.

Do ordinary people neglect the surrounding world?

It would be hard to answer this with a definitive idea of what is ordinary. Neglect sadly is very common to both follow human beings and to everything around us. Neglect is a very deep and historically significant to understand. We are being bombarded with that which has fallen before us and our children will be bombarded with what is falling now. I think to select a specific grouping of individuals and say they are unaccountable would be hard. I suppose it’s wise to all take responsibility.

robbie rowlands

What should be the mission of the modern sculptors?

To go to where man has gone before and to pick up what got left behind!

Would you try something completely new and extraordinary?

Well I hope I’m fulfilling these two categories already.

It’s early days so you never know what lies ahead!

Drawn – Decommissioned house

Complete this sentence: “What we see is…

…what we want to see”.

It’s what we don’t see that may be important to how we create a vision for the future”

suspended belief
Suspended Belief – Gippsland Regional Gallery

For more of his artwork click here:


Born in Melbourne, Australia.
Education: Bachelor of Fine Art, Sculpture, Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, 1999
Exchange Program PRATT Institute, Brooklyn, New York, USA, 1998
Certificate of Art and Design, Box Hill TAFE, Melbourne, 1989

Solo Exhibitions:

2010 Grace in Ruin, Gippsland Art Gallery, Victoria
2010 Project Space, Arc One Gallery,
2009 The Offering, Dandenong, Victoria, Australia
2008 Disintegration, Place Gallery
2006 Capsize, Diretribe Gallery, Melbourne
2003 Fear Shows, Yarra Sculpture Gallery, Melbourne
2001 Navigate, Stok-Yard Studios, Melbourne
2000 Standing with others, Yarra Sculpture Gallery, Melbourne
1998 Found, PRATT Institute, Brooklyn, New York
1997 One Dead One Alive, VCA Gallery, Melbourne

Group Exhibitions:

2010 Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone, Bristol building intervention, Bell Primary Preston
2010 McClelland Sculpture Survey, McClelland Gallery, Victoria
2010 Wrongtown, House intervention, South Yarra, Melbourne
2010 Toorak Sculpture Prize
2010 SPILL, Arc One Gallery
2009 Critical Fixtures, RMIT Gallery, Melbourne
2009 PHM 09, Installation, Amusement center, South Yarra
2008 The Current 08, Parramatta River, Parramatta
2008 PHM AW 08, Installation at 46 Stanley Street, Collingwood
2008 Depot, Installation at Grenda’s Bus Depot, Dandenong,
2007 Structure, Space and Place, Memorial Tower, Kangaroo Ground
2007 26 Surf Street, Installation at Merricks Beach House, Victoria,
2006 The Current, Melbourne Town Hall
2006 Anti Sedition Show, Powerhouse Museum
2006 NMIT Staff Show, NMIT A-Space Gallery, Melbourne
2005 Moreland Sculpture Show, Melbourne
2004 Anthology of Art, Gropius Bua, Berlin
2003 Fundere Sculpture Prize, Yarra Sculpture Gallery, Melbourne
2003 Keith and Elizabeth Murdoch Traveling Fellowship, VCA Gallery, Melbourne
2001 Environmenta, Round Hills – Moss Vale N.S.W


2005 Australia Council – New work Grant
2002 Bonanza Award
2001 Pat Corrigan Artists’ Grant
1998 PRATT Institute Exchange Program
1998 Julius Kane Memorial Scholarship
1997 Tina Wentcher Prize

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