Briefly describe the work you do.
I work with etching, aquatint, and collage to create images that are layered in both concept and process. The imagery is based on my experiences and observances of the world around me and is abstracted and manipulated in order to create something entirely new. I then deconstruct these complex images, disassemble them and then piece them back together, further extending the layering process. It is through this process that new spaces and images begin to emerge, echoing the process of memory retrieval, and creating a kind of cognitive excavation.
At what point I your life did you want to become an artist?
I think that I have always felt that I would become an artist. The physicality of making, and process of creating has always been present and important in my life. For me, there never seemed to be any other option. It was the way that I could express the way that I viewed and interpreted the world around me.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I come from an east coast Italian-American background. Food and family have been central components in my upbringing. Listening to family stories countless times around the dinner table has always been a part of my family history. These stories, passed down through the generations have now become part of my memory, even though many of them are of people and places that I have never known. This idea of perception and memory has been a common thread throughout my career. Also, the focus around food preparation and gardening, has revealed my desire to work with, prepare, and tend to things, a concept that very much echoes my artistic practice.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?
The cinematic representation of thought and perceived experience is what drives my working process. I am interested in what happens visually and conceptually when continuous time is fragmented, stopped, and altered by memory and thought. I search for what the space of the mind might look like, considering the cognitive layers that are present within us as we perceive time and space. Process, layering, deconstruction, and rebuilding, are vital components to the work and serve as the motivating force behind my exploration.
There is an interesting dialogue between the physicality of the printing process and the use of digital layering, which forms an important foundation for my work. Each form serves as a record, a way of preserving something and presenting it again. There is a durational aspect to thought and cognition, in addition to one that wants to capture an image and hold on to it. The etchings, serve as a momentary impression, and a build up of time. The repetition of imagery and serial presentation suggest the various manifestations that a remembered image can take. The print collages appear as if they are both falling apart and coming together at once. They are completely deconstructed, reassembled, and frozen in a state of suspended animation. Cutting away at the collages themselves, references a cyclical system of building, growth, and excavation. After a number of individual layers are constructed, I am able to overlay them on top of one another, creating an abstracted, layered space.
We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?
Process and work are what drive my practice. I am motivated by my desire to make, and translate the things that I see and experience into a visual form. The act of physically working in the studio, experimenting with new techniques, and exploring new subject matter all serve to help me develop my conceptual ideas. In my work, process and concept go hand in hand. For me the act of working on one thing, tends to lead to another, resulting in a series of connected and fluid works. I see these works, less as individual pieces, and more as larger, related groups that tell a story together. This is the connection I find between the two dimensional work and the time based work, and the different forms feed off of one another.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
I have been influenced by all kinds of artists, ranging from medieval Italian fresco artists to the contemporary video installations of Hiraki Sawa. There have been times during my career that I have looked closely at Van Gogh’s brushstrokes and other times when I have studied the flattened two-dimensional space of Japanese woodblock prints. The layers of work in Rembrandt’s aquatints and the powerful depiction of light in Goya’s black and white etchings amaze me. I am continuously inspired by contemporary artists like William Kentridge, Sarah Sze, and Bill Viola in both their conceptual and technical impact, while films like, Fellini’s 8 ½, Stan Brakhage’s, Mothlight, and Eisenstein’s use of montage have been important as well. All of these interests feed my practice collectively, serving as an important form of education while creating a visual and procedural language that is necessary to drive my work forward.
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
Food and gardening are my passions. I find a lot of connections between the work that I do in the kitchen and in the garden and my creative process. Cooking, experimenting with new recipes, and working with interesting ingredients are important to my daily life. During the warmer months my garden occupies much of my time. I love to grow perennials, vegetables, and herbs to use in my cooking. Some of my favorite places to visit are formal gardens, arboretums, natural history and geology museums. Also in my spare time, I love to play tennis.
Robin Koss was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She received her BFA in 2002 from the University of Delaware, an MS in Computer Animation from New York University in 2004, and an MFA in Studio Art from Maine College of Art in 2012.
Robin has taught courses at the University level since 2005 in the areas of Digital Media and Animation. She has also participated in numerous residencies both nationally and internationally, in places such as Florence Italy, Siena Italy, The Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice Italy, Vermont Studio Center, and at the Printmaking Center of New Jersey.
Working primarily with printmaking, collage, digital and time-based media, Robin explores the nature of perceived experience and the space of the mind. These media allow her to construct images that suggest process, layering, and a build up of time.
Her work has been exhibited in Boston, New York, Portland, Maine and in numerous cities in the state of New Jersey. She currently works in New Jersey and New York City.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.