One of the places I frequently visit is New Zealand. North or South, these split islands are equally mind blowing in their beauty. Each so different. From the crazy thermal activity in the north, vineyards, glaziers to the stunning Remarkables in the south (so called, I gather, because they are just, ‘remarkable’). The beaches, long and lonely. Black sand to white winds, so much art on the shores. Weed formations, bleached bones, driftwood and stones. The land vibrates with energy, still growing and forming, so ancient and yet still finding itself. The rainforests, and rivers, Kauri trees, monoliths of wood oozing amber and stories of the past.
So there was something familiar when I first laid eyes on Micheline Robinson’s paintings. Originally from Ottawa, Canada then via the Wirral, UK, Micheline up roots and took the long journey to the Kapiti coast near one of my favourite groovy cities, Wellington. Outside the city, it doesn’t take long to find your own little wilderness. Micheline is absorbed in hers. Her studio a factory of her thoughts. Suspended glazed layers and mirrors of colour and emotion. She believes in focusing her perception on light and space. It is there she sees the patterns formed in the urban and the natural landscapes around us. You can see the curl of the ferns, the dense undergrowth, the sky and all the elements. Paintings that are maps of colour, the unseen layers she sees between the trees. It’s where you find her secrets.
Back when Micheline lived in England, she founded and organised The Open Studio Tour in the Wirral Peninsula, a collective that is still going strong today. Micheline now somewhat secluded is now stimulated by the gorgeous landscape that surrounds her.
Yes, my home, the landscape is enough to motivate me. I’m still in awe of everything I see and am happy to soak it all in then work away in my studio. I must admit I have become somewhat of a hermit since my move here.
The hermit life is very seductive, I am envious.
In the UK, I networked easily by going to art events in Liverpool, which I find a little trickier here, living that much further from an arts hub such as Wellington. However, I’m quite pleased with how things are, love that I can hop on a bike and see Kingfishers and horses then come back refreshed for a new day of painting. From the studio I hear the Tuis (which is a local bird with 2 voice boxes) and I am surrounded by trees.
How bizarre, you wonder why one would evolve to need two voice boxes, and to have such colourful plumage. NZ is one of the kings when it comes to weird, exotic. I’ve seen those crazy Wetas.
When it comes to colour you use a huge palette, you’d think some of the tints in your landscapes are exaggerated. But if you have experienced the place you understand it is like a blending of things, the life that passes through as well. Like many visitors to New Zealand you must have felt that breathtaking awe, so much space and solitude, how did you react to the new landscape around you?
At first I felt the distance to the Northern hemisphere. It felt surreal to be here. I had never traveled so far South, let alone live this far away from my roots. I was in awe of how beautiful it was. I remember landing in Wellington and seeing all these white homes adorning little lush green mountains. The size of the palm trees and the colours in the landscape were things my brain had to absorb as part of a new reality. I was also struck with the rawness of the landscape in some areas. You can feel a sense of danger, of urgency living here. Perhaps it is the idea of being on a small island in the middle of an Ocean, the fact that trees are allowed to grow in a much freer way as they are living in conjunction with humans as opposed to being oppressed and tailored to human taste. The cliffs and the jagged volcanic type rocks adorning the sea coast of where I live
I always say it feels like the place could just stand up and start walking, it feels like you are on the back of an animal.
I still feel this experience as surreal. Some days I forget and am part of a normal society and then other days, it hits me. Especially when I walk at night and see the milky way (something I couldn’t see living on the coast in the UK). I feel much more connected to earth living here. Earth in the sense of nature but also of its place in our universe
Yes the Cathedral of stars just stops you in your tracks. You feel so minuscule. Besides yourself what artists adorn your walls and are close to your heart?
Artists that are close to my heart, quite a few. I would say Emily Carr was one of my first influences. Today I love artists that push the language of paint forward, artists such as Dil Hildebrand, Cecily Brown and Ibrahim Hussein. In my home I have mainly works collected from artists I have known personally throughout my life and images and books from artists that I have always loved such as Jack Shadbolt. I would love to own a Michael Abraham as he was a great inspiration when I started out in Vancouver.
Emily Carr, wonderful colour impression, her forest is a dark flow. I wonder if you have found or have always been drawn to the indigenous connection of place through your work
Yes, there seems to always be a recurring theme of nature in my work. As a child it was a place of solace as had often found humans to be quite complicated creatures. I love the urban but my work seems to be drawn to places that bring us outside of our circumstances. I do tackle political issues quite frequently in my work but often through a nature context. When there was the Lybia uprising against Gadaffi for example, I did a painting of an empty shell (broken regime) on top of a white blanket (in which he was wrapped). The whole scene was of a seaside but it was a metaphor for what was happening.
The curl of ferns, the dense undergrowth, wall of nature you are experiencing now is very different to The Wirral.
Yes, very different. I do miss the beach that went on for miles at low tide on the Wirral and the sound of the migrating birds in their thousands at take off, but the wall of nature is amazing in NZ and have tried to depict it in my newest works. The sense of urgency we experience when we are confronted with raw nature. This experience is for me in some way an antidote to our obsessiveness with the problems we experience between ourselves as humans. There seems to be a disconnect in societies between nature and ourselves. Perhaps why I focus on it in my art.
Another reason why it is appealing for me trapped in this big city. You make us forget what you have described as “geopolitical boundaries of our world that allows the viewer to connect, regardless of experience” I glimpsed only a few photographic explorations that you have done. Very different to your painting. Still bold in it’s stained glass of colour but more of an exploration of micro movements, beautifully abstract. Your sand looked as if you were going to blow away like a little tumbleweed. Sand and glass, I see your works as windows. You can just imagine the light changing them. So is photography something you might explore more of or have explored in the past or is the smell of paint too addictive?
I love photography. I have always loved it but have not as of yet had the money to properly invest in equipment. However this year am planning on getting a new camera (a bit of a debate between that and a Cubase type workstation as also compose music :)). Photography does feed my art. Not in a copying context but it allows me to notice things around me in a different way. It has helped in developing an eye for compositions and also allowed to get closer to the details of my subjects. I first invested in a better camera to capture the birds in flight on the Wirral. I do have the photography bug and am now ready for a more advanced camera that will have better resolution and really bring forth what I see.
More of Michelines paintings and projects can be found here.
You can also connect with her on twitter