In traditional art codes, the audience is invited to appreciate art only through eyesight. Viewers don’t interact with the work whereas the artist plays an active role in its existence. Here appears an asymmetric relation where distance creates value around artists and the artworks. This is one of the notions that artist Sibylla “Billie” Robertson ponders and aims to transcend in their art practice. It combines installations, ceramics and blown glass, all evolving in a fun and colorful world.
From video games to art
Originating from unceded Gadigal land (Sydney), Billie got into the art world through video games. Their art journey started with painting on Photoshop and drawing on a tablet. With a passion for video games stemming from their childhood, Billie found themselves in games designs before attending art school to improve their drawing techniques. There, they discovered new mediums and became fascinated by glazing and clay. They completed their Masters of Fine Art at the National Art School in 2021.
Billie’s interest in games remains today, as they are inspired by the aesthetics as well as the participatory aspect of them. Indeed, these games cannot exist without the involvement of the players. They actively contribute to the development of a world and its life, just as their audience does with their artworks.
Exploration through intuition
Exploration and intuition are both major elements in Billie’s art practice. They dedicated a part of their time at NAS to intensive glaze research, mixing elements to give unique aspects to their ceramics. At the same time they got to know clay, which they found to be challenging. Its malleability makes it an ideal medium for intuitive practice. However, it requires the artist to establish a conversation with the material.
images by PILOTENKUECHE or supplied by artist
Pilotenkueche residency is the opportunity for Billie to explore new ways of working with various mediums. Their intuitive artistic practice remains unchanged. Indeed they gravitate towards materials that have the same relationship that they do with clay : something malleable, where gravity is a challenge. They explore the full potential of a medium in an intuitive way reconsidering its initial use to see how it could turn.
Their Shrine work from the Ritual Exchange project also involves intuition. It is composed of ceramic elements of different sizes and shapes. This temporary work has its disposition changed every time it moves from one place to another. Billie never plans in advance the way ceramic shapes will be put on the wall. Once on-site, they follow their intuition and their work sets up in response to the surrounding works, as well as the space. There is a continuity between the unpredictable nature of the clay practice and the implementation of the project.
Involvement of the audience
In the Souvenir Stall from the Ritual Exchange, Billie sells fragments of ceramics from their Shrine to the audience. The art becomes accessible in a physical way. People are able to interact with the artist who is the direct seller. They also can touch and own a part of the artwork. Here, Billie removed the physical distance between art and the audience which usually creates value. The usual passive role of the audience disappears. The public becomes an essential element in the arts existence. There is a demystification of the artist and a questioning of the value of the work through the participation of the audience.
Billie’s work has a strong sense of labor. They use materials that are considered as being outside the upper tier of the classification of materials. By putting clay onto walls in the Ritual Exchange, Billie transgresses the designation of ceramics in the western art canon. It becomes as valuable as paint. Moreover, they fix the unilateral aspect of art by making the viewer as important as the artist in the existence of the artwork.
Written by Margot Lallier
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