Looking to get inspired by an analogue photographer and want to know what it’s like making a career out of the art world? We spoke recently with artist Robin Cracknell whose work spans across several genre’s and themes. We recently printed ‘Childhood’ by Robin for an exhibition in New York, a body of work exploring the relationship between single parent and child. Catching up with Robin he has a new found focus, project and lets us into what inspires him as an international artist.
Hey! Please introduce yourself and what you do!
I’m Robin Cracknell, an artist and photographer living in London. I shoot film only; sometimes cine film, usually expired stock, with malfunctioning cameras. I particularly like the physical qualities and unpredictability of film and I try to use the film surface as a sort of canvas for marks and stains and deterioration.
Tell me a little bit about your current project.
Currently, I’m wrapping up something called ‘Weight, the sea’ which I began in late 2014. It’s about heartbreak and desire as told through the visual language of the sea. Longing, the distance between lovers, how we signal to each other, find and lose each other, drown …. I’m interested in these feelings and the mysterious, unfathomable quality of the sea made it the right visual metaphor.
What are the pros and cons you find daily about your practice?
CONS: I can only work in complete solitude and isolation yet, with that, necessarily, comes a certain loneliness which takes its toll. Also dealing with rejection, disinterested audiences, long periods of no income … It’s not a glamourous life.
PROS: I am free to express my feelings and desires, whenever and however I want, every single day with no restrictions, no timetable, answerable to no one.
What is it about your practice that you find so exciting and keeps you hooked?
Honestly, photography is never exciting or fun for me. Sometimes it can feel rewarding, turning an abstract feeling into a physical entity like a photograph; I suppose these moments – or the desire for these moments – keeps me going but I wouldn’t call the process exciting. ‘Satisfying’, perhaps, is as far as I’d go in defining it. But photography brings with it a lot of failure, frustration and disappointment, too. So much is out of our control, so many variables, how can we be original in a world glutted with images? But, okay, there are those rare, indefinable moments when a picture just materialises before you and feels more real than you do; I suppose that sensation of conjuring truth and beauty from thin air can feel momentarily exciting.
You print with us here at theprintspace, what is your go to paper of choice?
It depends so much on the picture and where it’s going to end up. For my notebooks, I like the traditional feel of C-types and their intrinsic ‘durability’ because I enjoy roughing them up. For larger prints, I’ve been impressed by Hahnemuhle pearl.
What do you like the most about using this paper?
I like the physical ‘weightiness’ of the paper, the surface and faithful reproduction of sometimes quite difficult, ‘soupy’ colours and tones often lost on other papers. The colours are very rich but not exaggerated.
If you could experiment with any other medium, what would you choose?
I’d like to work more with movie-making, poetry, screenwriting, painting, grungy noise music. Having said that, I’m happy to stick with what I do well rather than risk mediocrity trying to be another Wenders, Twombly, Burroughs, etc.
Where do you get your daily inspiration?
I’m already over-saturated with inspiration. It comes from everywhere. Relentlessly. I don’t need more. The harder question for me is ‘Where do you get your motivation?’ How do you fight that inner voice that (rightly) asserts ‘No one cares about this picture you’re fussing over’. I think this nagging self-doubt is the enemy for most artists more than lack of inspiration.
What makes you wake up each morning feeling pumped to create some new work?
I rarely, if ever, feel pumped up about creating new work. Usually, for me, I wake in a vague stupor of feelings, images and a certain sort of ‘longing’. You just know that something has to go down on paper today, some mark has to be made, some picture needs to be taken. It’s like looking at a dirty floor and knowing, today, it has to be cleaned. Art, for me, is that sort of feeling. It’s taking control of something, shaping it to your own ends, reclaiming a sort of order.
Are there any artists/photographers/writers/filmmakers or musicians where you have in mind when looking at creating new works?
I’m interested in all sorts of artists, writers and musicians but, when it comes down to creating new work, nothing ‘external’ really influences that process. At one point, I’m sure I copied photographers I liked but I think I’ve found my own voice now and don’t feel remotely influenced by other voices around me.
What are you currently working on that you just can’t get enough of?
I produce ‘arbitrary’ poetry from the shuffled, random fragments of dialogue from foreign movies. I enjoy doing that because it has a defined starting point that belongs to someone else which is a nice change from my own work which starts and ends with me. It also gets me to think about other characters and narratives which is a much-needed diversion from my daily recycling of my own ideas and narratives.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to make a career out of your given practice?
My son once said that being an artist is just another way of saying you’re unemployed and, in many ways, he’s right. I’ve made a career out of it, yes, but at a financial and emotional cost most people wouldn’t tolerate – especially for such a meagre payoff. Practically speaking, ‘Art’ is a terrible career choice but, if you have this insistent inner voice that demands attention, it is the only career choice for an authentic life. The alternative is to ignore or silence that voice which, to me, is a sort of death.
What’s next for you?
I’d like to get ‘Weight, the sea’ out there. Either published or in a good gallery. I have hundreds of visual notebooks that I’d like to put together in some sort of coherent, meaningful way as well but … one day at a time. What happens ‘next’ in our lives usually has nothing to do with our intentions anyway so all we can do is be grateful that we’re here and try to produce intelligent, engaging images that might mean something to somebody.