Interview » RobRoy Chalmers.

by Amy@AQ-V on February 10, 2010

Sporozoan Swarm Series | custom installation
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The latest work by fine artist RobRoy Chalmers is terrifically beautiful and organic in addition to being easily accessible plus quite honestly, downright pragmatic… a word not necessarily often connected with fine art. His Sporozoan Swarm series encourages the owner (aka The Keeper) to interact with the work in greater fashion as they install the many individual components according to their own aesthetic and site/space specific needs. RobRoy explains:

The Sporozoan Swarm is a modular work of art, made up of torn and cut Intaglio and Lithographic prints combined with drawing, with a projected 500,000 components. These components break down from The Swarm into many small clusters and migrate around the world. The Swarm’s component structure allows it to ebb and flow through spaces in a fluid way, wrapping around doorways and shifting through corners: it suggests the fluid dynamics of life. Small Clusters of The Swarm are installed in places that are not typically seen as “art viewing spaces,” allowing the greatest number of viewers the space to commune with the piece, free of sterile pretense, or limited access. This way of viewing makes the work become more a part of the viewer’s multifaceted memory, rather than a one-dimensional ornament.

Read more of this description on RobRoy’s blog. In addition to the single arty bits of paper, I was immediately taken in by the composite forms RobRoy has created in his custom installations of The Swarm. These are very striking as a whole and the beautiful fragments of drawings and prints fluidly lead the eye across the plane of one or more walls in a visually dramatic manner. I am thrilled for the opportunity to feature RobRoy’s work and to interview him. Read/look on and enjoy…

Sporozoan Swarm Series | samples of single elements
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Q: Who is RobRoy Chalmers?

A: I was born and raised in northern New York state. I started making art in my junior year of high school where I found two great teachers who nurtured my interests. I went to Pratt Institute for one semester and left to make my first move across country. (I have since moved across two subsequent times.) I lived in California for about two years and just kind of bummed around. When I returned to the east coast I landed in Virginia for about a year before I realized it was time to finish school. I returned to Pratt with a vigor to learn.

College afforded me great opportunities which I am not sure that I followed through that well on. One which I did was the chance to go to Italy for a residency at Studio Camnitzer in Valdotavo, which is about 25 kilometers outside of Lucca. It was a great experience that really forged my sensibilities as an artist.

Sporozoan Swarm Series | custom installation
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Q: As an artist and individual who has lived on both coasts of the U.S. and abroad in Italy, how has this informed your work?

A: I am not sure if it is where I have lived that has informed my work so much as the moves themselves. Moving is disruptive and it seems that whenever I do move it causes a rift in my working habits which in turn forces me to reevaluate the work I make. Living in so many places has taught me that we are all a lot more alike than we are different and that is playing a sizable conceptual role in the work I am making right now.

Sporozoan Swarm Container | available for purchase
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Q: How would you describe not only your aesthetic but also your working style? Also, what/who inspires you?

A: I make things that I like. They are always derived from the human form or plant life. I am obsessed with the richness that Intaglio printing creates along with dense layers of stand oil and dammar varnish in my oil paintings. I don’t think I have a working style. I can say this: I have to be working on multiple projects all at once in order to get anything done. It tends to look like chaos in my studio all the time. Most of my inspiration comes from conversations I have with people and random things that I see through out the day. Some artists who are enduring in my mind are: Michelangelo, Willem deKooning, Kiki Smith, Louise Bourgeois and the craftsmen of the Acropolis. Some artists who have defined and changed my perception of what art can or should be: Lee Bontecou, Matthew Barney and Roxy Paine.

Sporozoan Swarm Series | single element
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Q: Your Swarm series is quite visually engaging, both the individual components and your installation format. Tell us more about it. How did this series come about? And where do you see it possibly morphing next?

A: The Sporozoan Swarm was born out of necessity. When I first came back to Seattle in 2008 it was right at the moment of the big bubble burst. My wife and I still owned a house in Massachusetts and we were stuck in a tiny little apartment. I had no place to work. I was walking by a small shoe boutique one day and saw a blank wall and thought how about 1000 tiny drawings? I asked the shop owner and she was interested in seeing the out come so I went home and proceeded to tear up a portfolio full of proofs and old prints. From there it just evolved into the thing it is now check here for the best explanation.

Where it is going from here? It is always changing but I would never presume that I could predict where it might be in a year. Chaos plays too large a role in its growth.

Sporozoan Swarm Series | custom installation by RobRoy and his lovely assistant/daughter Izzy
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Q: Out of sheer curiosity, tell us about your dumpster diving habits. You seem to be a professional. As a fellow dumpster diver, I admire that.

A: I hate wasting anything and if I see something that might be helpful in making my work I grab it. I also almost never buy anything new. I am always looking for the damaged roll of paper or trudging through the bargain pile of paper at art stores. All of my etching plates are ones that were previously used and most of my etching tools are bought used or found while I was teaching at Pratt Institute. Wood shops are great places to go for scrap wood. Most of them leave piles of unused strips of wood which are great for making armatures and the like. No reason to spend money if you don’t have to.
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Q: In addition to paper, what else might you collect? Such as what else fills your shelves, nooks and crannies?

A: Paper is my favorite but I have a lot of copper and wood as well. I have a pretty solid collection of tools, which helps me make objects with all my scraps.

Sporozoan Swarm Series | custom installation
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Q: What are you currently working on? Upcoming projects?

A: I have shows scheduled pretty much through until the end of the year. Most of them have something to do with The Sporozoan Swarm. For the most accurate info on past, present and future projects follow my blog or friend me on facebook or on twitter.
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Q: What is your dream project? And what would you like to see your career/life look like in let’s say 10 years?

A: I have a dream project but I don’t want to talk about it in such a public forum. I am currently researching grant opportunities for it. Again I hate to try to see the future. The decisions I make often preclude me from having any clue what is hiding behind the next bend. That said being a full-time artist with a part-time teaching position would be great. I really just want to make art.

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Q: As a former educator and now professional artist of over 15 years, what words of wisdom can you offer to young artists? Especially any business advice as that seems to be an overall weakness in many formal art programs.

A: Always be making something. Art is not like riding a bike. I believe it requires constant attention to maintain ones craft. Never put all your eggs in one basket. If you have a patron who is buying work regularly don’t think they will always be there. Always be looking for new opportunities. It is really hard to be overexposed as an artist. Save some money. Having a few months of rent built up can be really helpful if you lose your job or want to take sometime off to prepare for a big show that comes at you out of the blue. Never assume that things aren’t changing all around you. Always challenge your perceptions or your work will stagnate and you will get stuck.

Sporozoan Swarm Series | custom installation
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I want to draw attention to a word I used to describe RobRoy’s work in my introduction, specifically the word ‘accessible’. It is accessible in both the physical sense as you interact with The Swarm and it is also accessible in the monetary sense as well. RobRoy has purposely made his work very affordable. You will find clusters of The Swarm for sale in his shop with the following description:

I believe art should be in everyone’s home and to do that it needs to be affordable. This is my reasoning for making Sporozoan Swarms. An art lover can, for a very reasonable price have a commanding art object in their home. Because of the use of negative space that naturally occurs in hanging an Sporozoan Swarm it only takes 20 or so pieces to adorn a poster size space on a wall and best of all you can break it up into many small Sporozoan Swarms around the house. And because Swarms are modular it is easy to increase the size of your Swarm.

When you become a Tiny Sporozoan Swarm Keeper you will receive:

* 8 to 12 prints and drawings.
* Sizes range from approximately a 1/4 of an inch to approximately 4 inches.
* Straight pins in the same quantity.
* All prints and drawings will be punctured to make for easy installation.
* A “Title” confirming the authenticity of your Swarm signed by me.

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[ All images ©RobRoy Chalmers ]

Super grazie to RobRoy for sharing his fantastic work in addition to his time!
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>> website + blog + shop + flickr
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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rcakewalk February 11, 2010

Great post! And a fantastic artist and concept! I know all about having too many things going at one time, yet he reminds me to focus… Something I need reminding of!

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