‘Luminations’ Brass and Wood Model

‘Fissure’ Sketch

Esther Rolinson is an artist whose work combines drawing and sculpture with new media technology. Often working with light, her work can be seen as both public and gallery installations, offering various contexts in which her meditative projects, both technically and visually captivating, can be enjoyed by all.

In 2016, Esther won the Lumen Prize for sculpture and 3D art. Whilst working on a number of public art commissions, she has also been developing Ten Thousand Thoughts, a growing body of work first exhibited at Anise Gallery in late 2019 and with the project’s second iteration coming to Anise Workshop once social distancing restrictions have been lifted. We caught up with Esther to see how she is adapting to present circumstances.

Where are you right now?

Right now I am in a creative place, making and doing at my own pace. It is a way of shaping the days and a response to the stillness. It has changed over the course of the lockdown and I expect will continue to evolve as lockdown is eased.

In terms of the work I am producing I have three major ongoing projects. They are all at different stages but each is benefitting from the abundance of time. Each work is complex and the lockdown has provided room to get into the details. Every day I oscillate from drawing to modelling and working on computer versions, gradually pushing concepts and technical solutions forward. I explore many possibilities both on my own and in dialogue with the project partners.


‘Surge’ Sketch

How has the current lockdown affected your usual practice?

The projects I am working on would be going ahead with or without lockdown. The critical questions are about when they will come to fruition. This is a concern, but as I cannot change circumstances I am attempting to be disciplined about each task. I can also say that I am nourished by the quiet. My work is essentially about following sensations. In the absence of any clear way forward or way to predict what will happen, the sensations of the here and now feel quite prevalent.

The best way for me to manage each day is to ‘do’ without trying too hard. Rest when you want to, do when you want to. Uncertainty can be a difficult situation/ emotion, the only thing we do know is there will be gains and losses, no matter what. Trying to live consciously with uncertainty can also be profoundly productive, as everything remains possible. I find that following the subtle ebb and flow of knowing/not knowing in a creative process is useful. Basically I don’t force things when I don’t have to and then the solutions appear to arise with less effort.

Have you made any changes to your practice?

I have not made any deliberate changes to my practice but the situation naturally affects it. At the outset of the lockdown I felt a little blank and an urge to retreat. I did not feel resourceful. I went with it and responded only when I had to. I felt acutely aware of the horror of the situation and shared the financial and exhibition concerns common to the artist community. I also have children so I have to find a way to incorporate their educational needs into my day.

However, as it has gone on a change has taken place. In my immediate process I am experiencing a great updraft of creativity. I always like time to be on my own to organise work instinctively on what comes up. I am surprised to find that I have so many positive endeavours that I have to consciously step away from the threads of work as the intensity of it becomes overwhelming. But, when I’ve taken a breather to regulate I am soon drawn in again.

In this way I am finding a whole new curious landscape of works emerging. They are still coming in to focus so it is hard to describe them yet, but they are influenced by the seismic shift

So I am allowing myself to be instinctive and responsive in my approach. I notice how many people feel they are less productive and are concerned about this. Despite having much to do, I know how they feel; there is always more that can be done. For example I run most mornings, largely feeling that I should be in the studio, but during that time I resolve ideas and come to my studio with answers that simply need to be rendered.

Sketch for Musgrove Park

Do you have any tips for others on how to adapt and stay creative under the current circumstances?

One of the things we might find it easy to forget under the pressure of funding and exhibition cancellations is the resources found through connection between us as artists of all kinds. I have been taught that a fundamental principle about your value as an artist is the rating of your work from peers you respect. This, (not monetary reward or even exhibitions) is what will deepen art practice. So I think that lateral connection is vital now; let yourself be drawn to like-minds. I hope to be there for other artists and vice versa. I really feel sensitively to their concerns.My tip would be to listen very intently and compassionately to your own energetic responses – trust that you know the best way forward.

Besides that there are a few things that pass through my mind most days that spur me along: ‘Throw failures over you shoulder and live like the meteor is about to hit’ (the words of encouragement from my partner). From JG Ballard on following your own obsessions: ‘Identify and be faithful to them, let them guide you like a sleepwalker’. And, the beautiful, comforting last words of the poet Seamus Heaney: ‘Don’t be afraid’

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I gave this talk to the computer arts society a couple of weeks ago and the responses I had to it were very heartening.

It made me realise that many interested people wanted to know more about my process so it has inspired some of the writing and recording which I will be continuing to work on.