Meet Robert Powell, one of our long-standing artist members at Edinburgh Printmakers
"In my spare time I rescue maidens from dragons and collect interesting raindrops in a sieve."
Meet Robert, one of our long-standing artist members here at Edinburgh Printmakers! Currently working towards an exciting exhibition at the Fine Art Society called Phantom Things: Ghost Stories, Robert discusses his love for etching and how he first felt daunted joining the Edinburgh Printmakers community.
What kind of printmaking do you do? Tell us about your work as an artist.
I've done all sorts of different printmaking but really the core of my practice is etching (my first love) and lithography. There's a lot of narrative in my work and I think that makes it quite flexible to whatever I'm thinking about at the moment. I'm excited by encyclopaedic structures and their fallibility, pieces that try to show the whole world and fail. Consequently, I made a series of etchings that showed the history of the world from the very beginning to the end then back to the beginning again, and last September I put up a sculpture constructed from etched copper plates that embodied Scotland. There were scenes of Adam Smith pinched by an invisible hand and Sawney Bean and his family deep-frying an Englishman.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I'm working toward a show at the Fine Art Society on Dundas Street called Phantom Things: Ghost Stories. It is about how objects and ideas can haunt and it opens on the 23rd of April, do come along!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I suck up stuff from all sorts of places. I'm quite greedy. Actually, I do try to reflect as many sources as I can. Often nuggets of story found in books are a springboard, but it feels important to interact with the world of things as well - people, politics, nature - those things. Each show has a different set of starting points. Pneuma: The Mechanical Egg began with Victorian automata and so became about the dialogue between humans and machines in thought while Between the Lost Places was about making maps, seeking refuge and travelling to distant places in your mind - but in actuality, there's always overlaps between what I think are going to be distinct thematic areas.
What’s your favourite piece of printmaking?
I love the Paula Rego etchings on show in the Gallery of Modern Art at the moment. There's such a range of technique deployed with such skill. Also the classics: Goya, Durer, Rembrandt obvs, Kollwitz, Daumier, Dore, Piranesi, Bonnard, Vuillard, Hiroshima, Hokusai, Yoshitoshi, Redon. I think it was the Russian artists Brodsky and Utkin whose work alerted me to the possibilities of etching. They were part of the Paper Architect group and would enter Soviet architectural competitions with huge etched plans for fantastical buildings.
Tell us about what you do when you are not making art?
In my spare time I rescue maidens from dragons and collect interesting raindrops in a sieve.
How long have you been a member for?
I became a member in 2008. It was very daunting. I remember feeling I was the only person who didn't know what they were doing. I still feel like that sometimes, but a lot less daunted.
What’s your favourite memory at Edinburgh Printmakers?
There are many good memories associated with the place. I have some fond (and frantic) ones around my show Species of Space in the EP Gallery in 2016. I made a high-rise doll's house and a miniature street out of prints and laser-cut elements. It was great having many prints on the go at the same time, so I could bounce back and forth between areas in the studio and think about the litho whilst I was etching and vice versa.
What do you think of the new studio at Castle Mills?
There's so much space, which is great because now I get a lot of exercise going from one part of the studio to another.
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