Artist Profile: Rowena Gilbert
Rowena Gilbert has been immersed in art her entire life, a passion that has led her to become a highly skilled and impressive artist in her own right. We spoke to her about what she does, the inspiration behind her work, and what she’s planning next.
How would you describe your art?
I create handmade contemporary ceramics. My main focus is finding that perfect fusion of strong design, innovative style and spontaneous expression; that counterpoint of form, design, colour and texture.
My latest series has become more impressionistic and abstract than previous work and each piece is a one-off design capturing its own tone. Different surface textures such as mattes and gloss give my work an extra depth, and my colour palette this year is awash with yellow, turquoise and aquamarine.
What is your background?
I’ve always loved art ever since I was young. My father, Terence Gilbert, is a very established fine artist and has inspired me immensely. His studio is in the family home, so I grew up watching him paint. He always made me feel so proud of my own drawings; pinning them up in his studio. I believe it was my portfolio of felt-tip pictures aged 10 that helped me gain a place at Christ’s Hospital School, Horsham.
My art teacher at that school was a huge collector of contemporary fine art ceramics and to be taught by someone so passionate about ceramics was a massive influence to me (without me realising it then). I absolutely loved ceramics at school, but just as much as everything else; the whole spectrum of art, design, craft (and maths!)
I moved to Brighton in 1998 to study an art foundation course, then on to a BA honours degree in three-dimensional crafts specialising in ceramics. The year I graduated, I won the ‘Best Up and Coming Local Artist Award, Brighton & Hove’ and set up in a studio with the help of The Prince’s Trust. I’ve been there ever since, working in ceramics for leading galleries both nationally and internationally.
What is the most difficult piece you’ve ever undertaken?
To be honest they are all difficult; I’m constantly negotiating the temperature and humidity of the air to prevent my clay layers cracking. The way I work with layer upon layer of coloured clay is the most frustrating and difficult process to perfect, and constantly goes wrong, yet I love the effect when it goes right, so my struggle continues…
What is your favourite piece?
I don’t have an absolute favourite, but definitely my latest work, Coast Series part #1 and part #2, are my favourite collections so far.
What is the inspiration behind your current exhibition?
My ceramic work is a celebration of the natural world informed by my travels and my coastal hometown of Brighton, where the colours of the beaches and the flora and fauna of the nearby South Downs provide a source of inspiration. Moods and personal experiences also influence my work in more subconscious ways. After recent travels in Southeast Asia, the beaches of the Thai coast provided fresh inspiration for pieces that have taken my work in a new direction. Following the trip, experiments with new colour palettes led to an unintentional spread of hundreds of turquoise blue swatches, spread out in my studio like an ocean of tiny tiles.
My latest collection ‘Coast Series’ are a response to the skylines and shores of these tropical islands, capturing the constantly changing hues and movements of these spaces with accents of waves splashing against rocks and birds in flight.
What has been your proudest artistic achievement to date?
My highlight is the ceramic work I am producing now. I feel I have established myself as a very technical maker and yet am freeing myself to be much more intuitive and artistic; I guess this is the start to me feeling like a true ceramic artist.
Where can we see your work?
I will be launching ‘Coast Series #2’ exclusively at Cameron Contemporary Art, Second Avenue, Hove, for their Winter Exhibition starting on November 12th. ‘Coast Series #1’ can be viewed online at www.rowenagilbert.com.