For 30 years, Joel Robson has made a living from the nature of desire. Working on commission, he’s created furniture and cabinets to hold, protect and celebrate cherished things.
His new work, HOLDINGS, is a riff on the nature of display. It’s part self-examination of what the Toronto-based artist knows about things of desire, and part celebration of object-making.
“I’m really trying to look at objects and how they communicate to us by design and inadvertent metaphors and memories, as well as a sort of sensuality, in order to find out why we value objects and why we place them in the structures that we choose,” says Robson. “That whole editing process from the object right down to the structure that holds them is very interesting.”
At the heart of Robson’s exploration is his interest in the role negative space plays. Robson’s empty space is defined by an enclosure of material and yet has a charged substance. There’s a power in this space, and Robson gives it great value.
“In some cases it’s a meaningful space and in other cases it’s a questionable thing, but we assign it some attention, we assign it some value and we back it up by placing an object or our thoughts in it.” Whether hand held or body-sized the implication of Robson’s pieces is anthropomorphic. Like his work, we are containers filled with things and plenty of emptiness too.
Robson creates this bodily connection with the work by purposefully making each piece alluring. A lot of the smaller works use yew wood, which is very hard and polishes and burns well. He wants you to touch the work.
“In my mind I imagine living with them. I imagine using them. I imagine having that choreography with them…part of the deal is you question what the hell would I use it for. I want to, and I want [the viewer] to ask what is going on in that space, what is of value here, what would complete it and why put something in it.”
HOLDINGS will be on display from Thursday, June 4 – Sunday, June 28 at the DAVID KAYE GALLERY in Toronto.