This month, we have asked Robert Lee to tell us a bit about himself and why he began making box art...
Robert Lee, can you tell me a bit more about yourself and why you began designing?
In what was then called the sixth form at school I studied Art and was fortunate to have a remarkable teacher – Gordon Taylor, who not only encouraged my interests in this area, but also introduced me to almost everything I hold dear to this day. These included literature, the theatre, contemporary dance, architecture and design as well as film and music.
He opened my eyes and my mind and, more particularly, he encouraged my aspirations towards sculpture – at that time I was heavily involved in abstract metal sculpture from found objects, and though as it turned out, I eventually studied and later taught and practised as a Designer, those early years at School and as a Saturday student at the School of Art in Brighton developed in me a curiosity about and a love for all things creative.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Work through you ideas continuously in whatever medium seems right for you.Open your eyes and see what is around you; keep a sketchbook and a notebook, a commonplace book perhaps, and, unless you are intending to be a photographer don’t use a camera.
Do you have a favourite artwork or sculpture?
I find this a difficult question to answer. There are many artists and sculptors whose work I enjoy. I own a Terry Frost print and a wonderful large etching by an artist, whose name I have unfortunately forgotten, who was a first year student at Chelsea when I bought it. Both of these works I live with on a day-to -day basis and they never fail to impress and inspire.
As an influence on my work as a Box Artist, Joseph Cornell is a constant source of reference and of his works I would like to own any one of the Hotel series boxes. Currently I am looking at my own work through a re-examination of the work of the Dadaists and Cubists and in particular Picasso’s Guitar constructions of 1912 – 14.
What is your favourite book?
Another difficult question for me as I read constantly and much of my work is provoked by books I have read. I particularly enjoy reading European writers, in translation, and, amongst others, the writing of Ismail Kadare, Andrei Makine and Orhan Pamuk have led to several works, as have the books of the American fabulist Kevin Brockmeier. Each year I also try to catch-up on Canadian literary fiction and am looking forward to reading Frances Itani’s new novel ‘Tell’ just out in paperback.
Are artists born or made?
I have absolutely no idea, but from my own experience I would say both. I seem to have always had a well-developed spatial sense; I see things in three dimensions, a quality I was probably born with, but it was certainly nurtured and developed and underlies a preoccupation with space, place and trace in my work.
How do you spend a typical weekend? / Sunday?
I try hard not to allow there to be a typical weekend, but an ideal weekend involves seeing family and friends, having brunch or a nice lunch, a trip to a flea market where I might find something for a box or visiting an exhibition, seeing a movie or a performance of some kind and finding time to read.
Where’s your favourite place in the world?
Any one of a number of large cities I have been fortunate to visit, probably one of the Latin cities where music spills out into the streets and where it is warm. Or in complete contrast one of the North American cities in the Winter when the air is crisp and the snow crunches underfoot; definitely a City.
What are your indulgences?
Too many to list.
If you inherited an acre of land what would you do with it?
I have always wanted to build a timber-framed house around an inner space and near water.
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