Words by Sinead Nunes, Editor
The next in the line-up to be announced for Threshold V is artist Robert Flynn, whose geometric sculptural forms seem to be perfect for this year’s theme of Contrasting Geometries.
What interests you about ‘transformation’ as a concept?
What interests me about the concept of transformation, when it’s applied to people, is that it always seems to come from a place of dissatisfaction, which creates the desire to improve and change into something else. The human perspective is that change is for the better and something to strive for. So by looking at what we want to change and what we wish to achieve from it, you can learn a lot about the ideals that people and society as whole value.
You use a lot of different skills and your work crosses mediums including photography, sculpture and more – how do you combine all these elements (and what is your main passion)?
I try not to limit myself when it comes to what I work in and use whatever medium I feel fits the concept I’m working on best. However, with the main process of my work, I create false narratives and realities through sculpture and costume which I then photograph. The photograph then serves to separate the viewer from the subject and presents it as a false reality. Any other elements and mediums I add – installation, video, etc, usually serve to support and add more layers to the work.
Which one is my main passion? That’s a tough choice between sculpture and photography, as one influences the other. If you twisted my arm, I’d have to say sculpture though, as it’s what I originally started in and that process of constructing and building something also heavily influences my photographic process.
Costume seems to take centre stage in your work – have you always been interested in designing these forms?
Creating costumes and props has been more of a recent development in my work. Originally I worked on a smaller scale, creating small sculptures and dioramas, which were to be photographed. However, I wanted to work on a larger scale and add ‘real life’ elements into my work so as to contrast against the constructed elements and to exaggerate the ‘unreality’ within my work. From the interest to expand my practice into this area, I started to create costumes.
I love the series Metamorphosis and in spite of representing “unobtainable goals of perfection” there seems to be an element of fun here – would you agree?
There’s definitely an element of fun in my work. It mainly comes through during the final shoots, as I am essentially contorting myself while wearing a pile of card and paper. The whole process is a bit absurd! But I feel that absurdity ties back into the themes of the work in this series.
I found your Anima series particularly interesting – where did the inspiration come from?
The inspiration for Anima, a series of portraits that explore unconscious thoughts and feelings, was inspired by my research into Jungian archetypes and symbolism. What interested me about Jungian archetypes was the idea that we come pre-loaded with symbols and images that represent the different parts of our psyche. However, the meanings of symbols are not universal for all people and can change from culture to culture, and person to person. From here I learned about the ideas of Desmond Morris. He proposes that people are born, the same way as archetypes, with a set of inborn actions and gestures based around the functions and movements of our physical bodies. This gave me the inspiration to explore vague, unconscious symbols that don’t reflect cultural or environmental influence.
You often seem to put yourself at the centre of the work, whether that’s portraits or concealed within your sculptural creations – why is this important to your practice?
This actually stems from the previous question. Originally for Anima I was planning to use a number of different models for the series, but I realised it didn’t work as I was in a sense imprinting my own ideas of unconscious symbols onto other people. So I chose to use self portraits instead as this seemed appropriate since I was creating archetypes that were personal to me. This idea has spilled over into Metamorphosis which would have only worked if I photographed a single person. For that series, I saw it as a vague narrative framed around one person’s obsessive pursuit.
Have you ever exhibited as part of a festival arts event before?
I was a part of Night Contact in 2013, which is a photography and multimedia festival based around London. This is my first chance to exhibit this series as an art installation though, which I’m excited for.
How does your work fit with this year’s theme of ‘contrasting geometries’?
In Metamorphosis, I explore the human desire to change as an attempt to attain unobtainable goals of perfection in ways that don’t always succeed. These are represented by geometric forms in relation to the theme, which explore the contrast between who and what we are and the ideals we hold.
With music, visual art and other performances happening, what are you most looking forward to about Threshold V?
With all the musicians involved, I’m really looking forward to checking out some stuff I haven’t seen before. Also I’m really interested in seeing how my fellow artists have responded to this year’s theme.
You can keep up to date with the latest announcements for the visual art, theatre and music strands of the festival at thresholdfestival.co.uk