Robyn Woolston

Robyn Woolston Photo c. McCoy Wynne

Robyn Woolston (

Robyn Woolston’s practice involves installation, photography, moving image, print and on-line projects.  She is passionate about people, relationships and the way the world works.  This is reflected in her work, which raises questions concerning social, economic and ecological perspectives.

Q & A – Robyn Woolston

Q: Tell us a little about yourself

-I am an artist and filmmaker. I began my career working in broadcast television but soon sought a platform that offered me greater freedom and ‘space’ to create. After being commissioned to Produce and Direct a short documentary for ITV called ‘Émigré’ I decided to study Fine Art full-time.

These days I install large-scale sculptural interventions created out of ‘waste’. As well as working with lens-based media in terms of Artists Film and Video / Photography. I also work with everyone from primary school children through to prisoners, as well as vulnerable and hard to reach adults, across a myriad of Art in Education settings.

Q: Can you tell us a little more about the ethos or thinking behind your work?

-I play with the symbols and products that a culture uses to create its meanings. My sculptural interventions comment on the co-dependent relationship between consumption and power, identity and autonomy, and the documentation and harvesting of processes within the socio-psycho geography of our collective experience.

-For example, we are fundamentally disconnected from the ‘waste’ that is generated by the commercialised systems that service, and profit from, our basic needs. I’m talking specifically here about the large-scale waste that is, in turn, creating large scale impacts upon the planet and our quality of life. Many corporate processes are fundamentally, and structurally, orientated to benefit their shareholders rather than the larger community. Thereby putting profit before people.

Q:  How/when did you start making art?

– My earliest memories involve being immersed in ‘making’ whether that was drawing, painting, pasting or sticking; as well as long summer nights exploring the world on my bike until the sun-set. So, really, I don’t remember a day when art and nature weren’t a fundamental part of the way in which I ‘process’ life. They are both a window and a mirror.

Q: What brought you to Liverpool?

-I took my Fine Art degree with Wirral Met College through John Moores University and stayed for the Capital of Culture in 2008. The possibilities really started opening up in terms of the city and its creative networks and in many ways it’s continued to flourish despite the fact we’ve lost some key players.

Q: Where do you get inspiration from?

– Systems, processes, patterns, cultural idiosyncrasies and perpetuated memes. Plus ‘waste’ products from the socio-political to the literal.

Q: What do you find inspirational about Liverpool?

– I love port cities; they have an ability to mirror the tide in terms of the delivery of ideas, people and fresh air to the shore. Each day new truths alight upon the city then flow back out to sea, having been realised, experienced and digested. It’s a pattern that repeats bringing life and energy to Liverpool’s people and places

Q:  What would your dream project be?

– I’d love to work with harvested plastic waste from the North Pacific Gyre. It’s the world’s largest eco-system yet the waste contained within it covers an area larger than Texas. It’s so far out to sea that it seems there’s a complete ‘disconnect’ in terms of personal responsibility on the part of the polluters.  The responsibility lies with both on-shore and off-shore processes and for me the waste is representative of non-circular thinking. Within holistic paradigms every part of the process is a part of the people that create, make, use and utilise its reason-for-being, it’s circular. There is no disconnection as the waste is as important as the product or service that generates it.

Q: Do you think there is enough support for emerging artists?

-It can be incredibly hard to sustain yourself whether you’re emerging or mid-career as there are very few financial ‘guarantees’ along the way. But what is abundant are opportunities in terms of locations, material and peer-to-peer support.  Nationally there are some great bodies ‘defending’ and re-defining the boundaries of Contemporary Arts practice and I would encourage new artists to become members of both AN and Axis.

Q:  What do you like about the Liverpool art scene?

– I love the density and variation of work on show during the Biennial & at the same time I admire ‘emergent’ galleries such as Curve. They actively seek to promote professional practice at an emerging level, and by doing so are re-defining the power structures of the city in a ‘rhizomatic’ fashion. I also adore Liverpool’s architecture, with all the innate possibilities it offers, there’s space to create, intervene and exhibit in conjunction with people like Camp and Furnace at the former A Foundation. The fabric of the city calls for sculptural interventions that reference migration, trade and industry against an ever changing sky-line.

Q: What can we expect from the work you’ll show at the Liverpool Art Prize exhibition?

-It’s my most ambitious work in terms of the opportunities and constraints presented by the space. I’m working with the Accumulator Tower so I’m dealing with shifting, and at times ephemeral, light. Plus the height of approximately eleven metres is offering up some exciting engineering conundrums.

Q: What other exhibitions/shows/events are you looking forward to in 2012?

Damien Hirst / Tate Modern

Rachel Whiteread / Whitechapel Gallery

The Biennial / Liverpool

Documenta (13) / Kassel, Germany

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

– Hopefully continuing to ‘broker’ relationships between materials, locations and people.

Q: Do you have any hidden talents?

– I once ran the London marathon and a few years later fasted for three days, on my own, in the middle of the Sinai desert with just 16 bottles of water and a sleeping bag….so probably, resilience.