In Conversation with Lynne Robinson
With not long to go until her guided art history tour at our Whangamata gallery next month, we thought we would get to know our local artist Lynne Robinson! A printmaking specialist, Lynne has been a part of our Whangamata volunteer team since we opened in November last year. She talks with us about all things printmaking, art history and living as an artist in the Coromandel!
Tell me about your background – how did you first get into art and printmaking? Do you have some particularly memorable stories to share in your art journey?
I have been printmaking for more than twenty years, but became more serious about it since inheriting my mum’s printing press twelve years ago. My mother was a very successful printmaker and she has been my inspiration.
I also found the Waikato Society of Arts printmaking group a huge support in the years I lived in Hamilton. I rather miss that collegial support now that I live in Whangamata. I have met and worked with some of the Tairua-based printmakers and would be keen to work with them more.
I have also dabbled in mixed media since living here, and have been mentored and motivated in this by fellow artist Kate Jones Madill.
What is your history with Whangamata? How do you think living in a small town has shaped your art practice?
We had a beach house here for about 36 years, and four years ago we had a new wing built onto it. We were so impressed with the resulting ‘new house’ that we decided to live here! I really love living here and I certainly find it a great inspiration for my art. I love the community and the growing reputation Whangamata has for being an ‘arty’ town.
Can you talk about your art making process – how do you arrive at particular portrayal of a subject? What are some of your main influences?
It depends whether it is a print or a painting. With a drypoint etching, I start with a specific image in mind - often from one of my own photographs. This was the case with ‘Fishers in the Mist’, which is based on a photo I took of the amazing fishing technique of Fishers in Myanmar, where they use their legs to row and fish. ‘Superhero off to save the Dotterels’ was based on a photo of my grandson, aged four, wearing his superman cape as he went on a mission at the estuary.
When I create a painting or mixed media work on canvas, I approach it in a more abstract way, with an idea more than a specific image - though I do sometimes reference a well-known Whangamata landmark like one of the offshore islands or rocks.
Could you tell me about some of the more technical elements and processes of printmaking that are related to your work?
My prints are mainly drypoint, using thin aluminium plate. I achieve texture by mark-making with a variety of tools, and also by ‘painting on’ mixtures of gesso and carbarundum (like a fine sand) to the plate. Ink is then rubbed onto the plate, and it stays in the grooves and textural marks.
At this stage, I might add pieces of chine colle (which means ‘stuck on papers’). These might include tissue paper, sheet music, hand-made paper, or old clothing patterns. I lay these glue-side up on the plate, move the plate to the printing press, follow registration marks, and then carefully place the best quality paper (which has been dampened and dried) over the plate. I lay a special blanket over this and turn the handle to run it through the press.
After doing a workshop with Carole Shepheard, I am now exploring more techniques of collagraphy, which results in more textural and 3D look prints. Overall, I do enjoy the technical side of printmaking.
Why do you create? What do you hope the viewer will see in your work?
It’s great for your soul, your health and well-being and your brain. I hope they get the feeling or emotion behind it.
You come from an art history background - how do you think your knowledge in this field continues to influence you and your work today?
I taught Art History to Year 13 students for eight years. As Education Manager at Waikato Museum, I could call on my Art History knowledge to help kids and adults ‘get’ the artworks. I also ran some Continuing Education classes for adults with a more fun approach to Art History; our most favourite one being where we matched the area of the art with wine tasting!!
I often contemplate the techniques of the Masters in my own work but I don’t think, “Well today I might do a Monet”! Certainly a major part of any travel is tied up with gallery visits.
What do you love about working and exhibiting in The Little Gallery? How do you find the arts community in Whangamata and the wider Coromandel?
I like the connection with the other artists in the stable of The Little Gallery. It is great to have such a quality gallery in town. It is rewarding hearing the positive comments about the excellence of the works. I have worked in other galleries and feel ‘at home’ in this context.
It’s also important being involved in the Arts Collective Whangamata - I think their events and regular coffee mornings are one of the best ways of building a collegial bond amongst the arts community.
Best thing about living in the Coromandel?
We are lucky to live in the Coromandel, one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand. We often travel but always love to come home and I hear myself echoing my father’s mantra – “you know wherever we go in the world, we still come home to the most beautiful place.” Coromandel people are pretty friendly too.
What are you most excited about for your upcoming guided tour, ‘From Raphael to Mondrian: Art History ‘with a twist’' at our Whangamata gallery? What can visitors expect from your talk?
I am looking forward to “putting on my Art History shoes” again. It has always been my favourite teaching subject. I must admit it will be a challenge making the connection from famous artists to artworks in the gallery, but it should be entertaining. It will be an informal walk and talk, looking at some works by famous artists like Chagall, Monet, Mondrian, and surmising if artists represented in the gallery use some similar techniques or have gained some inspiration from them: a fun approach to Art History!
Meet Lynne Robinson at our upcoming event, From Raphael to Mondrian: Art History ‘with a twist’ at The Little Gallery Whangamata! Lynne will lead a guided tour of the gallery, discuss significant movements in art history and share her thoughts on their influence on our contemporary artists today!
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