Rose Skinner – Imaginopolis

by Nathan SpoorPosted on

Imaginopolis Starburst

Thank you for taking time to talk to HF readers, Rose. As we began to discuss your work you went on a year-long journey. What was that like and what all did you discover and study on that adventure?

Thanks Nathan, it has been a crazy year since we first started talking. I’ll give a slightly drawn out account to explain my absence. 

It all started (as some stories do) with the impromptu purchase of flights to London, this was shortly followed by a not so unexpected and delightfully tragic break-up (it’s not one of those stories, I promise). The parting of ways instigated a quick and necessary restructuring of some brain spaces and a somewhat ill thought out plan to enroll into university (again). The plan was to get into the study abroad program to have something that resembles a purpose for moving to the UK and their sub degree temperatures. Oh and I thought it would be handy to acquire one of those nifty BFA’s which unfortunately seems to be the passport for access to certain parts of the creative industry. Long story short, I got into the university, got into the exchange program, got the BFA, and hated every minute of it. 

Artrage Silver

By the time we next spoke, funds had been gathered and an adventure that took me through 19 countries across Eastern and Western Europe, plus a stint in Egypt, was well underway. To be completely honest this journey was not a pilgrimage of sorts driven by artistic enlightenment, though being immersed in the great master works of the ages has a profound impact on a small town country girl. 

Along the way I indulged in all manner of cultural sampling and discovered a great deal, not least of which was that at 27 years of age I could still drink copious amounts of alcohol and party almost every night till sunrise and somehow manage to experience an astounding amount of culture the following day – although remembering it at 60 may be a problem. If I were to restrict the “OMG you HAVE to check this out” list to just three, I’d say my top creative experiences were; the Gaudi architecture in Barcelona  (if his mind was open for tourism I’d book endless summers nestled amongst his fluid tendrils of surreal architectural landscapes); The Raphael rooms in The Vatican left my eyeballs sore from an inability to blink so as to absorb as much detail as possible; and a sneaky wander off the beaten track at the great step pyramid of Saqqara was rewarded with the discovery of a tomb full of vibrant hieroglyphs, this area was clearly NOT open for stray tourists to aimlessly meander through so being chassed off-site by an angry, armed, Egyptian guard made the moment a memorable one.

We’re curious about where your roots lie and how you arrived at where you are. Where is your studio, and what sort of schedule do you find for being creative?

Growing up in the country meant we were always kind of poor, we never had many conventional toys and instead were encouraged to use our imagination and inbuilt resources for entertainment. We always had access to Dad’s workshop and whatever materials were lying around the property. We did things like commandeering islands for entire summers and getting together the neighborhood kids to build cubby houses and fortresses or BMX tracks. I guess a throwback to this kind of upbringing is an overactive imagination and a desire to hoard and collect toys. Before leaving Australia my 80sqm studio was almost in-operate-able with every toy you could imagine jammed in, packed to the ceiling. It was like a museum of childhood. Now I’m in London studio-less and my amazing collection of toys-through-the-ages has disintegrated with the majority gifted to charity shops never to be seen again. It makes me kind of sad to think about it but that amount of stuff can really tie you down and channel your creative flow in a single direction. A creative schedule is something I literally dream about at the moment. My life is a chaotic balancing act with a variety of cafés acting as an office and a make shift studio space under the loft bed of my small room in a South-East London share house. The studio hunt is on the priority list, that’s for sure.

Strange Attractor

You’ve spent several moments at university, studying the arts and achieving Advanced Diplomas in Graphic Design and Sculpture. But your resume also speaks of you teaching dance and movement, as well as currently teaching children’s art. Could you tell us how these apply to your current creations?

I’m continuously surprised and delighted by the ingenuity and the raw creativeness of young minds, minds that have yet to be corrupted by conforming to social and educational systems. The uninhibited creative energy children have never ceases to be a source of inspiration. I try to feed this energy back into my practice with the aim of making art that is accessible and thought provoking to all ages. Quite often highly conceptual, highly intellectual art places barriers around art and the viewer. Using the insights gained by working with the younger generations I hope to create work that is relatable and inclusive, a platform for art that generates an inspired passion amongst children as well as adults.

Let’s just get to the obvious, your work is filled with some fantastic colors as well as characters. When did this all begin, and what are some of your inspirations?

It all started on an acid binge many years ago. Can I say that? No seriously, my work investigates the notion of escapism by creating absurd immersive environments that reflect ludicrous aspects of popular culture. My inspiration is to highlight mindless and destructive trends such as mass consumption and throwaway ideologies by creating nonsensical situations that draw attention to their pointlessness. IMAGINOPOLIS for example is constructed from 250kg of sugar. Sugar, a product of no beneficial nutritional value has managed to secure a permanent position on our current consumer pallet. Although the list of associated negative impacts are numerous the product continues to grow in demand. By juxtaposing sugar with a surreal psychedelic environment populated by obese and mutated creatures I hope to create a dialogue about distorted desires and implicit realities. 

Speaking specifically of your recent work, IMAGINOPOLIS, do you begin with small ideas and build up to a full installation? Or do you have the whole land figured out from the get go?

It’s definitely a journey of discovery, kind of like looking at a theme park from a distance then going in to explore all the delicious nooks and crannies, the popular and the forgotten spaces. In general though, I have an overall vision or aesthetic of the environment and I know the message I want to communicate, the details are built upon this. The interwoven narratives that populate the micro aspects of the installations are a fun process of inventing characters, scenarios and meticulously intricate worlds-within-worlds.

I Wish I Lived in Wonderland 

Do you find work in character design or illustration interesting, or is your world more for the personal inspirations of the fine art path?

Inventing and constructing characters is a lot of fun. The process of 2D concept design through to the construction stages is extremely satisfying. The exploration of the creative centers of the brain are particularly intriguing for me, it’s the magical moment when ideas are amalgamated in the dream space then solidified into reality by your physical command that really rocks my socks. 

In regards to the fine art path; I have a love / hate relationship with “fine art”, this is mostly due to the pompous art-wank that surrounds the field. The industry is taken too seriously with deep thinking points of significance being the current trend. I agree that art should meaningfully contribute to society by raising questions and creating dialogue – otherwise it runs the risk of being little more than a self-indulgent craft but too often conceptuality goes so deep that it feels as though you need a PHD in anthropology to decrypt its meaning. For me this distracts from the visceral experience of art and its ability to connect with the individual. 

Occasionally one might notice similarities or pop references to films, cartoons, and animé. Do you cite any specific inspirations for your creative motions?

I’m obsessed with kooky surreal minds, Tim Burton, Lewis Carroll, Theodor Giesel (aka Dr Seuss), Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli) are on the top of my fave list. There’s something about popular cultural icons that I find intriguing, perhaps it’s the qualities that intimately connect with a mass of people, crossing cultural and social boundaries.

The Forbidden Garden

Your works seem so vibrant and kinetic, are there moving parts or sounds involved in the installations?

My installations aren’t a passive experience. Audiences are expected to explore and to interact with elements of the work. Live creatures, secret passageways, intervening performances, audience-triggered effects, changing lights, colours, sounds, and tastes build up the overall experience. They’re designed to get under your skin, to reside in your memory. This is where the real art lies, in a memory that you can take home with you. 

Imaginopolis Imaginopolis

Are there any particular elements that you would like to explore for future works – any new dimensions that you’ve been itching to break into?

It’s my life’s ambition is to create a labyrinth filled with loads of weird shit and fantastical adventures which flip your mind in all kinds of directions. I keep pitching scaled-down versions of this to different funding bodies but none have taken to the idea, just yet. 

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