Transformative Materiality

Robi Walters’ practice encompasses a contemporary re-examination of collage. Utilising bright colours and overlapping textures, each piece is a demonstration of finding beauty in everyday materials – translating discarded objects into cyclical compositions.

A: How does transformation resonate in your practice?
RB: In order to transform, you have to start your journey by knowing who and where you are. I start every morning by meditating and that is my first transformation of the day, it enables me to become centred, calm and focused. I think that is reflected in my work. The work that I make is mostly made out of material that people have thrown away. The flyers I use in my collages are for gigs and events in the music industry that haven’t been delivered. They would usually go straight in the bin. The materials I use are things that are thrown away and transformed into something desirable. There is transformation in that sense. There is also a transformation in the way I utilise the material; cutting into petal shapes related to sacred geometry, and for me that creates an energetic field.

A: Do you think that your works engage with finding the beauty in the everyday?
RB: Yes. I like to use objects that are everyday objects that people overlook, i.e my ongoing 365 project which takes cuttings from magazines, books, used envelopes and crushed cans that I wouldn’t usually look at, but I’m giving a new purpose to. Because you view it as a work of art, you overlook that it was once litter or discarded.

A: Could you describe your techniques from start to finish, for example finding found objects and translating them into sculptural compositions?
RB: It starts with a thought. Often that thought is translated into a series of words, and transformed into action. The closer you can get to that process happening, the closer you can get to that process, the better.

I make work that anyone could replicate, but I spend a long time thinking about what it is that I want to do, how I’m going to achieve it and most importantly; what do I do if I fall off the wagon? What I mean by that is the commitment behind it- If I’m in the process of making a piece of work that is very time consuming and laborious, how do I stay engaged in the work so I don’t get bored and switch off. I used to do everything by myself, which is sourcing the material, spraying it, cutting it, finding raw materials such as the wood, the glue etc and then the process of actually creating the work itself. For me, the internal journey I have taken in the process of making work is allowing others to work on my work, That’s been a huge journey of letting go.

A: How do you think that materiality resonates with audiences today?
RB: I think materiality is a really interesting subject. I don’t really believe money is real. How do you value what is materialistic or expensive from a financial perspective? Materialism is a really interesting artificial bubble that really is viewed from the individual.

A: How, conceptually, do the pieces relate to the notion of a wider arts ecosystem, utilising smaller puzzle pieces and contributing more widely to larger structures?
RB: I’ve found myself climbing into skips and picking up things that people throw away. I’ve found everyday objects interesting from a young age, and not just trying to be trendy – its genuine. I think that, because I have a natural curiosity towards those things, my mind is well placed in terms of sustainability and recycling –  and that really shows in my work.

A: Why do you think collage is interesting as a medium, and how are you trying to use traditional methods with contemporary perspectives?
RB: One of my favourite artists is Matisse. He’s super contemporary. I love his cut-outs, when I see that I just think its so bold, its so striking and its so to the point, but the man was at the end of his life; unable to paint, yet still cutting really roughly these iconic pieces. When I think of art, as much as I appreciate really refined and realistic artwork- it doesn’t turn me on. When I look at a Warhol print, I want to look for the mistakes; i find it really interesting. I like the overlaps of colour, or a smudge or a crease. When I look at Basquiat, it feels like free consciousness. I see the feeling rather than the literal sense of what he is painting.

I find that my collages tell stories. There are thousands of pieces of music flyers [gestures] This one says “September” –  people would’ve gone to that gig. There are so many stories in that petal… and so many layers to a piece. Its not about painting it, its more like a collective story I put together.

A: What do you have planned for 2017?
RB: I’m really excited to be working with Tom Kerridge. I’ll be making two tables made of menus from all over the world- full of memories and stories – and the artwork for the VIP room of his new restaurant in Knightsbridge that opens in September. I’m super excited about doing some plate designs for him too. I am continuing my YouTube series Pointless Conversations with some really interesting people. I’m also doing Frieze –  a really exciting time in the art calendar. I want to focus on meeting and working with new people – it’s a big thing for me this year.

1. Courtesy of Robi Walters.