Kate Robotham is an award-winning contemporary landscape painter, based in the Midlands. Since graduating from Loughborough University with a degree in Fine Art, she has travelled, lived and exhibited internationally. Her paintings encapsulate a sense of place, whilst celebrating the formal qualities of the landscape: colour, shape and texture. As the artist explains, her works present the viewer with an “emotive, paint-directed response to the landscape”. In this interview she talks about the influence travel has had on her painting, including the period of time which she spent living in Annecy in Southern France. Following in the footsteps of the great French modernists, these works are light-filled, Mediterranean canvases, which demonstrate her masterful, painterly talent.
What impact have your travels had on your work?
I try and travel as often as possible. Although I find a lot of inspiration in my everyday surroundings, I also love to see something new and completely different. I’m curious about different cultures and landscapes and this often comes through in my work – the places I travel to inspire different colours, textures and patterns in my paintings.
Can you tell me a bit about your time working in Annecy in France?
I went to live in Annecy, France for almost a year and a half, where I taught English and threw myself into the French language, culture and way of life. I used this time as a sort of sabbatical, painting drawing and traveling around France as often as possible. I immersed myself in nature, I spent time hiking, skiing and paragliding through the landscape and producing work responding to it. The landscape around Annecy makes you feel so small; I was awed by the raw beauty and magnitude of the mountains. I tried to capture this is as well as a sense of my curiosity about the world around me in my work.
Where does your interest in the landscape lie? In its formal qualities – such as colour and shape – or in your memories/experiences of that place?
Both – for me it is a mixture of seeing and feeling that makes me want to respond to a landscape. Often I am initially inspired by the formal qualities of the landscapes – a combination of the shapes, colours, patterns and compositions that I observe, but later my memories of a moment, a particular place can affect how or what I choose to paint back in the studio. I have been particularly inspired by the colours in France, especially in the South – the sunlight is much stronger and brighter and the colours are so saturated and vibrant, I love trying to capture this.
Do you work en plein air or in the studio?
Both! I love to sketch out in nature – I go hiking or walking as much as possible and if I’m on my own or with a patient friend, I bring my sketch book along and do some painting en plein air, but for larger paintings I work from sketches and photographs back in my studio.
Which artists are you inspired by?
I have been most inspired by Peter Doig’s work – I love his dreamscapes which mix imagination and reality. His use of paint is stunning. I have most recently also been inspired by David Hockney’s retrospective at the Tate, I was amazed by the scale and the colour. I hope I can still make work of such ambition, creativity and scale when I am his age. Similarly, Monet has been a huge inspiration, I was blown away by his Lily-Pad paintings in The Orangerie in Paris that he made in the last years of his life.
When did you first realise you had artistic talent? Do you think this is something innate or can it be taught?
From an early age I was always interested in aesthetics – I always put a lot of effort into my drawings and it was my creative projects at school that I was always most proud of. But I really came into my own at A-Level when my art teacher let us loose on oil paints and that was when I discovered my love of this medium and my natural feel for it and I have never looked back! I believe painting is about seeing, and you can be taught to see in a certain way which helps you to draw – for example seeing tonal contrast, identifying shapes, and colours. Being persistent, resilient and learning from your mistakes are all also key skills that you have to learn as an artist. However, inspiration is innate and unique, and this is the bit which is hard to teach.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions?
Yes, I have a solo exhibition coming up at Peterborough Museum and Gallery, running from October – December 2017, which will feature my recent landscape paintings which move towards abstraction.