Unfolding beauty in garments
by Vincent Ciccarello
A fascination with drapery and garments has fuelled a journey of artistic exploration for Amanda Robins – and has earned her a handsome prize.
Amanda Robins has long been taken by the texture and feel of fabrics but, as she’s quick to point out, her interest has little to do with fashion or clothes.
"It’s more about the body, and the way garments can be made to stand in for the body," she said. "I’m interested in how the folds and the structure of garments can look like body parts but I don’t want to be quite so specific about it."
Studio Head of Painting and Drawing at UniSA’s South Australian School of Art since 2006, Robins has just won the prestigious $10,000 House of Phillips Fine Art Drawing Prize for Net 1, a large scale work in pencil on Arches watercolour paper.
It’s the latest gong for this highly collectible Australian artist, whose works are frequently chosen to hang in the renowned Dobell Prize for Drawings at the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW). Her 2001 entry, Linen dress, an immaculately rendered life-size drawing, was subsequently purchased by living legend Margaret Olley and gifted to the AGNSW.
"A lot of my works are based on garments that I’ve found at op-shops, so they’re discarded, but hold the memory of someone else’s presence; they often smell of perfume or have lipstick stains," Robins said.
Net 1 further explores Robins’ investigation of the theme of garments and the body but from a different perspective. Instead of a garment "still life", Net 1 is a drawing of a surgeon’s cap made from transparent paper, which is enclosed in a nylon net from the greengrocer.
"It is part of a new body of work called Contained, which consists of images of remnants of drapery and garments which have been scrunched and stuffed into string nets, fishnet stockings and other containers," she said. "These nets hold and contribute to the shape while allowing the surface of the fabric or paper to show through."
The drawing was included in an exhibition to accompany the 75th Sylvia Plath Symposium at Oxford University last year, where Robins presented a paper about the influences of Plath’s writing on her work.