I understand
arrow drop search cross

The Hepworth Wakefield acquires new body of work by Ro Robertson

08 Jul 2020

We are delighted to announce that a successful application to the Contemporary Art Society's Rapid Response Fund has enabled The Hepworth Wakefield to acquire a new body of work by Ro Robertson (b. Sunderland, 1984).

The Hepworth Wakefield first worked with Robertson in 2019 during Yorkshire Sculpture International (YSI), a major festival of sculpture across Leeds and Wakefield. An important element of YSI was the Associate Artist programme, which aimed to support and foster local talent. Five sculptors working in Yorkshire were awarded grants and were paired with one of the YSI partners to act as a mentor over the course of the year.

The Hepworth Wakefield was paired with then Hebden Bridge-based Ro Robertson, an artist who, like Barbara Hepworth had an interest in exploring the physical relationship between the body and the landscape. Their work produced for YSI – Stone Butch – explored gender and sexuality in the natural landscape of West Yorkshire, with a new film work and surface casts of the Bridestone rock formations.

The year-long mentoring from our curators and the display at The Hepworth Wakefield led to Robertson being awarded a major outdoor commission for Sunderland celebrating the legacy of the 700 female shipbuilders who worked in Sunderland during WWII.

Robertson relocated to West Cornwall at the beginning of 2020, shortly before UK lockdown, after being selected as a short-let tenant at Porthmeor Studios. It is the body of new work created during this specific moment in history, when tourists were absent from St Ives and its streets resembled the quiet town that Hepworth would have experienced in the 1930s, that we are acquiring for Wakefield’s collection.

Robertson’s new work, Packing, looks at the terrain of the Queer body in the seascape, its caves, openings and overspills. Robertson articulates their interest in exploring connections between their own body and the rhythms and forms of the landscape as transcending ‘a marginalised Queer history based on colonial and western homophobic and transphobic ideas of being deemed “against nature”’.

The three-part work comprises a performance for camera showing Robertson inserting their body into the natural rocky landscape at Godrevy Point near St Ives; the sculpture Between Two Bodies, made from plaster casting directly from cracks in the local rock formations; and a large charcoal, gouache and graphite drawing depicting a bodily island, partly submerged and drawn automatically from experience of swimming around coves, rocks and caves. These new works are a continuation of ideas Robertson explored in Stone Butch, and demonstrate an ongoing interest in Barbara Hepworth’s deep connection to the landscape.

The new work will go on display at The Hepworth Wakefield in November 2020.

‘The Hepworth has played a vital role in the journey of my practice which has taken me from West Yorkshire to West Cornwall, working site-specifically in both while expanding ideas around gender fluidity and the Queer body in the land/seascape. I can’t think of a better journey for the work than for it to find a home in Wakefield, continuing a connection forged by Barbara Hepworth between the landscapes of her hometown of Wakefield and her chosen home of St Ives. I would like to thank The Contemporary Art Society for making this opportunity possible and for supporting artists during difficult times and The Hepworth Wakefield for their continued support.’ – Ro Robertson

Robertson casting the spaces between rocks in St Ives
Packing, 2020 (video still)
The Island, 2020 (charcoal, gouache and graphite drawing)

Related - Artist Profile