Feminist & artist. Writing & visuals.

Talking to Robyn Nichol

| On
12.5.15

Robyn Nichol Feminartist

Nineteen year old Robyn Nichol is a feminist and artist from West Yorkshire. Featured above is 'The Fear', a piece that resonates with many young women. Nightgowns, however, are just one of the props to feature in her provocative and question raising artworks: femidoms, tampons, pregnancy tests and sex toys being some of the others.


Robyn and I found ourselves in conversation after following each other on Instagram, then both hurrying to contact one another.



N: Firstly, what draws you to being an artist? 

R: I think what draws me to being an artist is the fact that I have this constant compulsion to make work. It's like I absolutely have to make art in order to process my thoughts and feelings, I couldn't see myself processing them any other way. Through my art I've been able to explore my fears too, such as losing my virginity, unprotected sex and the risk of pregnancy. 


N: I find myself feeling like that, in my mind I start pausing moments like a photograph and planning a photo series. I'll pretend I'm a lens and take every detail of a person in very quickly to try and preserve it - it sounds weird but I feel that's the kind of stuff you find yourself doing when you're a creative person! 

R: Yes that's exactly what I do too! You end up generating ideas at such random times that you quickly have to write it down otherwise it can just disappear instantly. I've got a massive list stored on my phone of ideas I've got for future pieces of work, I find that it's a really helpful way to aid you to reflect on your ideas and whether or not they'd actually be effective, and if not, how you can tweak them so that they are.


N: I do that, my phone notepad is full of my weird thoughts! I'd recommend everyone start doing it, creatively it's good because you can salvage and develop past ideas like you said. I also went through a phase of, immediately after waking up, reaching for my phone and writing all I could remember about the dream I had that night. I ought to start it again, it's kind of like the app store equivalent to what AndrĂ© Breton was on about.

Are there any artists in particular that influence your work?

R: Definitely! That's a really good idea actually, dreams can be a really interesting thing to try and recreate through art.

My two favourite artists are Louise Bourgeois and Jeremy Deller. Louise Bourgeois has most definitely influenced me in the terms of my interest in sewing, textiles and using my art as a form of self reflection, whereas Jeremy Deller was the first artist I discovered who incorporated politics and whose work had a social grounding.


N: I can see the influence of Louis Bourgeois, particularly her textile book, in your 'The Fear' piece - it's subtle yet thought provoking. Did you see at the Tate her 'Works on Paper' exhibit? 

R: I've been to see 'Works on Paper' twice, I absolutely love it! Not only does it feature some of my favourite pieces of work by Louise Bourgeois, particularly all of the works centred around motherhood and birth, it's a really well put together display and even better because it's free for the general public. I think it captures the broad range of mediums that she worked with and also the range of subject matter that inspired her works.


N: I went once, I was so impressed - I wish I could've returned! I'd only known her before for her sculptures.

In your Guardian feature, you declared your love for all things punk and back then you had a military/punk look which is very different to your hyper-feminine works now. Do you think this influence shapes the way you approach femininity? I feel works like 'Fertility' suggest a more critical outlook on it.

R: It's so strange looking back to see how my style has altered since I was sixteen. I think discovering punk and seeing how the women involved in it completely rebelled against stereotypical ideas of femininity definitely influenced my outlook on life, particularly in my art. My aesthetic preferences have changed a lot since that Guardian feature however. When I was sixteen I was really into black, leather and gaudy patterns and always aimed to stay well away from anything associated with girlishness, whereas now I love all things kitsch and girly.  I think as a result of discovering the vast majority of female punks' anti-feminine attitude, the hyper feminine slant to my works could potentially be seen as a further continuation of this reaction against stereotypical ideas of femininity, by deliberately exaggerating feminine colour schemes, textures, objects and associations.


N: What's next for you then? You've changed a lot from that Guardian feature, can you see your artistic medium changing/developing in the future?

 R: I'm going to further pursue my interest in the transition from being a little girl to a young woman, and the role that your sexuality plays in this, as this is the specific aspect of feminism that I've found that I'm most interested in. I'm joining a new art collective this year and I've also hopefully got a feature in an exciting exhibition coming up with one of my art collectives that I'm already part of. Along with this I'm going to be starting a new performance series based on internet dating over the Summer, and then later this year I'm going to be experimenting with placing myself in social situations that I feel uncomfortable in as a woman, and then producing some prints of whatever end result I come to. I think my work will always have a grounding in feminism, with my two favourite media being sculpture and photography, but I'm really excited to push myself to experiment with some specialisms that I've never considered exploring before!



Robyn Nichol Feminartist
Fertility
Robyn Nichol Feminartist
Untitled (Casts of a Mooncup)
Robyn Nichol Feminartist
Little Girls' Tea Party
Robyn Nichol Feminartist
Untitled (Stitched Photographs)
Softer and More Sensual

You can see Robyn's art on her Dropr, and keep updated on her happenings on her Instagram. She is also a member of the North-East of England based Clandestine Collective.