Manchester-based Artist Rosanne Robertson

Today we’re pleased to showcase to you the work and thoughts of artist and First Class graduate of the Manchester School of Art Rosanne Robertson. A keen musician, Rosanne works with action, sound and moving imagery in her various projects, touching upon human emotion, activity and idiosyncrasy as well as our roles and issues in society.

“I started out as an artist painting and drawing which I then carried on into my university education on BA Painting at Manchester School of Art. Whilst studying on the painting course I can recall the point I turned away from painting which was when in the first year my tutor said “yes, you’ve shown you can draw and paint, but what you are going to do now?” I felt that that was all I was trying to do with painting- I just wanted to know and to show I could do it to some sort of passable level. There was nothing else in it for me, it wasn’t communicating my ideas. I knew how to do something, I didn’t see the point of just repeating that and my tutor could see that too. I was lost until I had my heart broken for the first time during my 2nd year. I was at art school with a broken heart, it was perfect.

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I made personal work for the first time and I started writing. I made very unapologetic and honest work about my relationships with women since being a child leading up to having my heart broken for the first time. I wrote letters to my mother, I visited the council estate in Washington Tyne and Wear where I was sexually abused by a woman, I documented fleeting love affairs/online flirting and one night stands and showed it all during assessment at university with photographs of myself with alcohol poisoning and my teenage diaries. I think I scared a number of my fellow course mates. From this point onwards medium didn’t matter so much to me and I let go of all restrictions I had put on myself as an artist. I continued to study identity and truth through my 3rd year and up until the degree show with a piece named Emellee Pasov who was a fictional character I created from character traits stolen from strangers on Facebook.

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This piece drew a stark contrast to the honest and personal work I had been doing. Everything was constructed and controlled and it wasn’t directly about me or based on any of my experiences.  Emellee Pasov is an anagram for LOVE ME PLEASE and was a platform to explore what we give and what we take from those around us. I placed Emellee in people’s lives on Facebook and used the found information via online profiles to make people believe they had met her in real life. The project lasted a year and a half in total and ended with an actress bringing life to Emellee and going on a night out- putting this constructed personality into practice with strangers. Emellee was brought to life through her one night only interactions. She flirted, she gave her number out, she had drinks bought for her, she could well have been fallen in love with.

It was the space between these two works that I have carried on working in- between truth and abandoning the truth. I graduated with a first from Manchester School of Art in 2009 with the live art space being opened up to me right at the end which influenced my subsequent work. I had been volunteering for Castlefield Gallery in Manchester for the whole of my 3rd year and continued to after graduating until the November when I got a paid part time job as a research assistant there on a joint contract with a-n magazine who I also consequently started writing for. This work kept me out of the depressing post grad dole queue for 2 years following on from graduating whilst I continued with my ideas. I carried out live works for Mill 24 at Islington Mill which was an art event devised by Lois McDonald, Anna Beam and Helen Collett and then at a group show I was accepted into at Departure Gallery in London. At the time I was influenced by Sophie Calle, Vito Acconci, Phil Collins, Mark Leckey and generally artists who left a space open for spontaneity and process in their work.

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As well as developing my practice as an artist I have worked on and delivered various artist led events including The Manchester Artists Bonfire which I initiated in January 2011. The bonfire has received much attention from various media including the BBC and The Telegraph but my favourite quote is from Artlyst (a London based publication) “Michael Landy’s Art Bin Trumped by Manchester Artist’s Bonfire”. For me the Bonfire started a new relationship with honesty and my work, I want to make sure every action means something very important and is an honest engagement with space and people.

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I was recently chosen as an emerging live artist and provocateur by Doodlebug for Dazed Digital the online home of dazed and Confused in which Michael Barnes Wynters (aka Doodlebug) describes me as “very much a ‘doodlebug’, that is to say, a provocateur who tirelessly works across all platforms, creating work by any medium necessary and who works beneath the skin,”. Closely after this I was commissioned by Alexandra Arts for an event called Wonder[ment] for which I spent a week’s residency ‘Unlearning being scared of climbing trees’ in a piece that explored childhood, fear and restriction. ‘How to Unlearn Being Scared of Climbing Trees’ was documented along the way via my blog and a documentary video made by Pablo Melchor. Whilst up a tree a thought occurred to me which lead me onto the next stage of my line of enquiry to do with risk and gender- mainly how gender roles effect risk perception and how this manifests itself. I am in the early stages of trying out actions related to this- which all hold potential failure close to them. This work will develop into a performative investigation spring 2013 and details of how to see/be part of it will be released on my website. In my current investigation I have been influenced by the concept of failure and trying to understand it. This has been aided by a book called Failure, edited by Lisa Le Feuvreand her talks and chosen essays on the subject. Artists that I currently look to are mainly the first live artists, who experimented with action, time and space from the 60’s including John Cage, Carolee Schneemann and Yvonne Rainer.

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I am also currently developing a new artist led work space with artist Debbie Sharp who recently graduated from an MA at Manchester School of Art Media Lab. We named the space The Penthouse due to its rough aesthetic being at odds with the usually luxurious imagery conjured up by the word penthouse- and because we are at the top of Hilton House amongst the vestibules of Manchester city centre. This is currently our base, a site for a new free art library and a project space for artists. We have a day and night of introduction to The Penthouse on December 13th open to all who are interested in finding out what happens at The Penthouse and how to get involved as viewer or artist.”

See more from Rosanne on her website at, Tumblr and follow on Twitter @rosanner.

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