• Esther Rolinson is known for her stunning light installations. At the heart of her art practice is the act of drawing itself from which sculptural works emerge directly into subtle and complex shapes.  The relationship between drawing and sculptural form is essential to the nature of the light and movement elements in the artworks. Rolinson's works have the simplicity of pencil drawings but are actually highly technical and complex. Her signature is clearly visible in the striking combinations of animated light which present the viewer with stimulating experiences that dwell in the mind long after the event.

    In 2016 Rolinson and her collaborator Sean Clark won the Lumen Prize Sculpture & 3D Award for the work 'Flown',  an extendable light structure made up of over 800 hand folded acrylic pieces, illuminated with delicate programming.  Here Linda Candy chats to Esther Rolinson to find out more about her art, her relationship with technology and how she makes it happen.

    LC:  Can we rewind to 1999 to look at where your exploration into technology began?

    ER:  Yes!  I had just joined a residency programme at Loughborough University. The artists and technologists involved were in the early stages of investigating whether digital technologies could offer new ways of working in the arts and what kind of collaboration was needed to help artists participate fully. The artists found themselves in the driving seat, in charge of their self-defined projects with the technologists willing to respond as assistants or, if required, as partners.  It was early days in this ‘art-tech’ arena and I had to evolve an approach to using digital technologies from scratch. I recognised instantly what these new tools could offer my art practice, and worked hard to form positive, mutually beneficial working relationships with collaborators to best utilize their technological knowhow. 

    LC:  Fast forward to 2017. Your approach remains the same, yet your ideas feel ever fresh. What stands out is the consistency of your working practice and the total coherence of the artworks that emerge.

    ER: Thank you.  That process is open and exploratory, a continual search for the exact structure and materials in an endeavour to make evocative sculptural forms combining movement with light. I always strive to push the boundaries of different kinds of technologies during my collaborative investigations.   


  • Mass.  Pencil Drawing. 2016

  • Image:  Installation of Flown and other drawings in the Waterman Gallery, London

  • Images from the GRAVITATE installation at the Watermans  Gallery

  • Drawings and Images of 'Splinter' A Light  Installation by Esther Rolinson

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     LC: Would the word ‘success’ be appropriate in any way?

    ER: Sometimes I feel in a dilemma about the success I imagine. I want it and I know people enjoy the work but there is always the possibility of success or failure in the eyes of the viewer so it doesn’t make any difference to the sense of success in me. The satisfaction in making work happens while you are doing it.

    LC: Do you have any sense of where the seed of a completely new idea comes from and what is coming next?

    ER: I can’t identify a seed for an idea as essentially all the works are part of a continuous path. My experience is that each wave of work comes from my whole self. In this I include my thoughts, memories, emotions and physicality. It is as if new work hovers in me for some time, maybe years, before I make it.  When I do I use all the tools available to manifest it. I draw, think, make and discuss. I act out the work and see what happens!


    Esther Rolinson is currently showing GRAVITATE as an installation at the Watermans Gallery, London.  It runs until July 26, 2017.             GRAVITATE  is being shown concurrently as a drawing exhibition in the Baby Forest Gallery here.                                                                                  Find out more about Esther Rolinson here         Selected works are available to buy directly from Esther in her Gallery Shop here     


    This article is an abbreviated version of a longer conversation between Linda Candy and Esther Rolinson, for her forthcoming book on the creative process.

    Dr Linda Candy is a writer and researcher who lives and works in the Peak District and is Visiting Professor at Sheffield Hallam University. She has close personal and professional links with Australia and is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Technology, Sydney. She has published many articles on practice-based research in art and science and is currently writing a book on creative reflective practice to be published by Routledge. Recent books include 'Interacting: Art, Research and the Creative Practitioner' and 'Interactive Experience in the Digital Age: Evaluating New Art Practice'. Her writings reveal a rich source of knowledge drawn from the experiences of creative practitioners working with new technologies. She is a co-founder of the Creativity and Cognition symposia and is on the editorial board of the Journal of Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education and the International Journal on Design Creativity and Innovation. She has guest edited several special issues in Leonardo journal, Design Studies, Co-Design and the International Journal of Human Computer Interaction. 


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  • LC: Can you say something about your past and current creative work? 

    ER: I have just finished installing Flown and drawing works in the exhibition Gravitate at Watermans.  Making on that scale creates a massive momentum. When it’s over, I look for the next thing to pin the drive onto, but it gradually dissipates and I come back to nothing. That’s where I am right now.

    I have always made things pretty much continuously. If it’s not art, then the drive is transferred onto other endeavours.  A key moment was in finding my practice again as my children were growing. I had just two hours a week to myself.  Time was so precious, I took away all the rules and expectations and that was good. I started with a little bundle of stones that Leon (my son) had given to me from the beach. I threw them on the plate and drew them and the next week I threw them again and so on like that.  I liked the process and the drawings.  I worked with them in Photoshop and saw them as shapes and forms.  They became the pieces ‘Splinter and Thread’, I can see now that I was using a system to guide myself back into my work.

    I do not have a loyalty to any particular material, my approach is to find the best fit for each work.  I try out all kinds of things to find out how they function. I do this in my studio and with other practitioners including manufacturers, artists, consultants and programmers. The dialogue can be on different levels and time spans. When I visit a factory or workshops I often meet skilled makers and thinkers. Creativity is in so many processes, but not necessarily recognised.  I relish the moments discussing how to use tried and tested skills, perhaps slightly differently. If the other person is curious and willing it is our shared enquiry that achieves the work. Sometimes I feel that besides drawing, my skills or ‘material’ as an artist is communication. 


    LC: Is Collaboration with others important to you?

    ERTo use programming like many other materials I need to collaborate.  In my current collaboration with Sean Clark we are exploring our mutual interest in complex interconnected systems. Our current work is in deciphering movement patterns inside the drawings that can be brought back into physical objects through light movements. We have mutual interest viewed from different perspectives so we fit together well. At the same time our collaboration calls for ‘right’ boundaries where we identify our differences and work in our own creative practices to their fullest extent. For our overall system of collaboration to exist we must maintain our own core.

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  • Esther Rolinson's exhibition GRAVITATE is showing in the Baby Forest Drawing & Sculpture Room this runs concurrently with an exhibition of the same name at the Watermans Gallery, London until July 26th 2017


  • LC: How would you describe your working practice?

    ER: Over the past couple of years my practice has become clearer to me. The work starts in drawings. Some are very measured, others are instinctive. In the drawings I am uncovering structures and movements and at a certain point there is a clear place or object I can see to make. Then it moves into a different phase where I take the work out into the world. I need others skills to do this so there is always a collaborative relationship or team of people to negotiate. This expands the work to go beyond my own boundaries.

    When I have completed it I often recognise it to be a specific event or experience that I have had that has been transformed into an object. This is not premeditated and I do not know what will come next.  It is my way of digesting life and the predominant outcome is a resonance of ‘All is well’ in the complexity. I would be very pleased if the viewer had some experience of that too.


    LC: Are you aware of a viewer a lot of the time?

    ER: Yes. There is always a person that I am imagining or waiting for… someone coming along in the future to see what I am making them.

    This question also makes me consider why I make art. I am communicating in a way that I hope wakes up and speaks to senses in the viewer. I am sharing my sensed experience and see sensations as part of our connected common language. I feel a great togetherness with my imagined viewer.  








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