Exhibition Alert: Nicole Robins, Sydney basketry and fibre artist

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

Nicole Robins is a prolific fibre and basketry artist with a wonderfully unique, contemporary style. When we visit Nicole, her home is a hanging forest of plants and basketry pieces, there's something beautiful at every turn - natural elements are never far. It seems apt that her latest exhibition is called The Green Room -When Nature Moves In.

Nicole is a passionate artist and environmental advocate that cares deeply about the state of the natural world. Her proceeds from her latest exhibition will go to the Environmental Defenders Office, an organisation doing good things, Nicole wants more people to know about.

The Green Room - When Nature Moves In showcases a stunning body of work that, if local to Sydney, you absolutely must-see. Our interview with Nicole, and all exhibition and related workshop details are below.

The Green Room - When Nature Moves In

Runs: April 26 - May 16, 2021

Location: Art Est 4/ 76 - 69 Lords Rd, Leichhardt, NSW

Opening: Sunday May 2nd 4pm - 6pm

Nicole's interest in basketry and fibre art is a mid-life coming together of different parts of her life. Once an avid traveler - she spent 7 years spanning her 20s and 30s living in Latin America. On reflection, she realised that woven work was ever-present throughout her travels. In many ways, she feels she has been admiring basketry, weaving and craft from around the globe forever, although the switch from observer to basketry artist herself took some time.

An avid gardener, Nicole settled down in Sydney in her early thirties in a place with a garden she could tend to. It was here, in 2011, that she took a basketry weekend workshop with Meri Peach at the Botanical Gardens. She hasn’t stopped since.

Tell us a bit about the materials you use and your process when making.

This is a hard one to answer as I think my approach seems to differ at times. On the surface of things - looking at my pieces in recent years - it seems that many are very much based on particular fibres and highlighting that fibre.

I have definitely focused on the Bangalow Palm Spathe (a soft fibre) for a body of work. With it, I have responded to the shape of the whole spathe and then employed different weaving techniques to explore both closed and open weaves - and introduced negative space where there was none in the original spathe. This feels like exploring both the material and how it responds to different techniques. The outcome or final piece is often not planned but I do know it will have a relationship to the original spathe shape.

The use of fibres with a colourful sheath, like Dracaena draco or Yucca filamentosa - both grown and found locally- is also a constant in my work. Using sheath endings for texture seems to be quite an organic process that I do rather unconsciously these days, whether twining or looping. The surface texture is as important to me as the overall shape.

At other times I go for more conventional and recognisable basket or bag shapes; the idea for a cubic look, for instance, is there from the outset. So when asked whether I plan or am more organic in the process I would have to answer that it’s both. Feeling like I am playing and being curious about the possibilities and where things may go is a huge part of the enjoyment but over time it’s also rewarding to know you have the skills to go in a certain direction from the outset.

It's been a tough year. Did Covid effect you and your making?

I don’t have too much to say about this - I didn’t feel as creative as I might have imagined. I think I have been captured by this world catastrophe - and the larger climate crisis - and it’s affected me emotionally quite a bit. I do think that being able to make is a helpful mood stabiliser so that calming effect has always been really helpful.

In 2020 my partner and I got into bushwalking and trying to regularly escape to nature to lift our spirits. I know we were not alone in this. While bushwalking in Tasmania I came up with the title for my upcoming exhibition.

I had been very surprised last year to win the Greenway Art Prize (The GreenWay is an urban green corridor linking the Parramatta River at Iron Cove to the Cooks River at Canterbury). The curator has been championing small sculpture and 3D work for a few years, so I think she has had a big part in this. Part of the prize was a solo exhibition. I’m not sure I would have had the energy to do this otherwise. In any case, it’s turned into a way to focus on fundraising for an organisation. All my share from the sales of the work will be donated to The Environmental Defenders Office. It’s an organisation that I would really love people to know more about.

Faced with an environmental crisis it’s hard to know what one can do as an artist that can have much impact at all. I think this also accounts for feeling very uncertain during COVID. It seems to me that we all have to stand up to our governments and say, Enough! Similarly the recent women’s marches I think say it all about the way forward when faced with a patriarchal, complacent leadership. I’m reading that if we don’t act now we will be looking at a 3-degree temperature rise by the end of this century. That's horrific. But this could so easily be the reality in our children’s lifetimes.

See the full catalogue of Nicole's work for The Green Room -When Nature Moves In here.

If you'd like to purchase something contact the gallery through email or phone 02 9564 1519 or email art@artest.com.au

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