An Artist With A Background Essay

An Artist With A Background Essay

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Halifax-based William Robinson, an artist with a background in both music and sculpture, combines sound, image and object in durational works that explore both the fluidity and the constitutive resistance of matter. These often grand, theatrical events are the result of a lengthy, painstaking process of research into the way things are reshaped, both physically and through cultural intervention, how they acquire or lose significance through use and experience. In Robinson’s work, materials – which most definitely include sound, especially in the form of noise - are broken-down, rearranged, composed, and decomposed again, subjected to the linear trajectory of the musical score, the narrative form of history, and the weighty demands of the monument.
The “frozen music” of architecture has been a natural locus for Robinson’s attention to the transformation of material into shape and symbol. In the summer of 2012, following a residency at the Killam Memorial Library at Dalhousie University in Halifax, the artist presented Brutalist Song in the outdoor amphitheatre of the Confederation Centre of Arts in Charlottetown, as part of the outdoor visual art festival Art in the Open. This work was the culmination of a longstanding interest in the specific qualities of Brutalism – monumentality, poured concrete, the foregrounding of material surfaces, the primacy of mass over articulation of structure and line, the rejection of transparency. Massed concrete, for Robinson, carries the implication of entropy within its apparently indestructible blocks and walls. The piece developed out of study of the building’s architectural plans, which were transformed into musical scores, ultimately “played” against the backdrop of the Confederation Centre’...


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...d a drawing of sorts, marks and scratches on the floor of the church.
Robinson’s interest in the movement between latent and immediate properties of materials has led to a more recent turn to historical narrative, most explicitly demonstrated in Sun Ship Machine Gun, from 2015. Like many of his works, it was shaped over a long period of research. The multimedia piece, featuring video, installation and live musical performance, is based on the fate of church bells melted down to produce arms during World War II, followed by their reconstitution as saxophones in the postwar period. In this scenario, sounds and images are echoes of a wider history (though the artist qualifies its specifics as “historical fiction”) in which the fate of materials – their forming, unforming and reforming – is presented as an oblique narrative of aesthetic decay, sacrifice, and redemption.

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