Waves of Inspiration: Lorraine Robson at &Gallery Edinburgh

Lorraine Robson, 'Tidal Relief' (1 and 2), architectural plaster
Lorraine Robson, 'Tidal Reveal' (1 and 2), architectural plaster

Title:
Tidal: Lorraine Robson

Times:
Tue - Fri 10:00 - 17:00 Sat 10:00 - 16:00 and by appointment

From: 5 May 2023

To: 31 May 2023

Venue:
The &Gallery
3 Dundas Street
Edinburgh
Edinburgh & the Lothians
EH3 6QG

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After studying sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art, Lorraine Robson has been designing ceramics for over 30 years, taking part in international competitions and exhibitions across Europe and the USA; her work was selected for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office collection to promote contemporary British crafts overseas. 

Robson specialises in sculptural pieces on varied themes, not designed to be functional but decorative objets d’art as well as larger wall installations. Based on ancient skills, this is all about beautifully-crafted handwork using the most primitive and natural materials available – the earth itself. Tidal is a new project based on a research visit to the Outer Hebrides to observe the natural world where the land meets the sea:

‘This work draws inspiration from simple shells, broken, discarded on beaches and seaweed washed up on shores, growing on rocks or the imprints left in sand. A conscious aesthetic move from creation of single ceramic vessels returning wholeheartedly to my sculptural roots in fine art installation and wall relief works, albeit finely crafted.’ – Lorraine Robson

Tidal - the artwork displayed at &gallery
Tidal – the artwork displayed at &gallery

A recurring motif is a mussel shell with its simple, oval, bivalve shape creatively remodelled in clay and plaster.  The smooth, polished surface depicted in Mussel 1 is just so tactile, placed beside what seems like a tiny dimpled hollow on the golden sand-coloured plinth. 

Lorraine Robson, 'Mussel 1', slip cast ceramic vessel on architectural plaster plinth
‘Mussel 1’, slip cast ceramic vessel on architectural plaster plinth

A neat gathering of three shells in Mussel 6 also captures the visual effect of finding these lying on a beach. 

Lorraine Robson, 'Mussel 6', ceramic forms on architectural plaster plinth copy
‘Mussel 6’, ceramic forms on architectural plaster plinth

Similarly, with exquisite delicacy, the creamy-white contours of the ceramic shell in Mussel 3 are akin to a ballet pump sculpted in bone-china porcelain.    

Lorraine Robson, 'Mussel 3', Slip cast ceramic vessel on architectural plaster plinth
‘Mussel 3’, slip-cast ceramic vessel on architectural plaster plinth

‘Wrack’ is the common term for a range of olive green-brown seaweed found on the rocky seashore, which grows in abundance along the coastline of the Outer Hebrides.  

Mussels and seaweed on the Hebridean beach
Mussels and seaweed on a Hebridean beach
Lorraine Robson, 'Wrack 1, Mussel 2, Mussel 3', group of slip cast ceramic vessels on architectural plaster plinths
‘Wrack 1, Mussel 2, Mussel 3’, group of slip-cast ceramic vessels on architectural plaster plinths

Lorraine Robson produces moulds in rubber and plaster for the liquid clay, (known as slip) – all part of the labour intensive process and artistic technique as she describes, ‘ I love the act of mixing and pouring liquid plaster and clay slip… mould shuttering, slip casting, polishing, painting, glazing, from which a solid tangible artwork is realised’. 

Plaster moulds for slip cast pieces
Plaster moulds for slip-cast pieces
Modelling original forms in clay with mussel shells for reference
Modelling original forms in clay with mussel shells for reference

As well as a series of single ceramic shells neatly displayed on square plinths, around the walls are impressive, large scale Mussel groups, diptych and triptych panels. With imaginative vision, individual mussel shells are hung in a flowing arrangement, as if washed in a tidal wave of seawater.  

Lorraine Robson, 'Mussel group' installation 25 - 30, architectural plaster
‘Mussel group’ installation 25 – 30, architectural plaster

Also, a delightful collection of pale grey mussel shells crafted in architectural plaster – with alternative colours available for your own bespoke decorative wall display. 

Lorraine Robson, 'Mussel Group x6', architectural plaster set 6, (edition of 10)
‘Mussel Group x6’, architectural plaster set 6, (edition of 10)

A stunning triptych entitled Ebb depicts a similar scattering of shells and perhaps pebbles, featuring, in the centre panel, two gorgeous, glossy black and bronze patterned mussels: the delicate art of nature. 

Lorraine Robson, 'Ebb - Triptych', architectural plaster and resin motif on cradled panel
‘Ebb’ – triptych, architectural plaster and resin motif on cradled panel

However, it’s the close-up detail of this exemplary craftwork which demonstrates the masterly technique, precision and creative imagination.  The consistent purity of colour and quality of raw natural materials is evident, such as the use of Crystacal Alpha K – a very hard, off-white, casting plaster produced from gypsum minerals. The repetitive pattern-making, moulding, shaping and polishing must require such patience and dexterity. 

Tidal Reveal is the title of two delightful pieces which showcase Robson’s expertise in classic bas relief sculptural design, which is so pleasing to the eye and also textural, tactile touch. 

Lorraine Robson, 'Tidal Relief' (1 and 2), architectural plaster
‘Tidal Reveal’ (1 and 2), architectural plaster

Tidal is an enchanting exhibition capturing a sense of place on a beachcombing stroll in the salt sea air on a Hebridean island with a contemplative mood of peace, calm and reflection.  

The well-presented displays of ceramics 
The well-presented displays of ceramics

With thanks to Vivien Devlin for this review.

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