Inside the Home and Studio of Nonconformist Artist (and Self-Confessed Hoarder) Robert Rush
Robert Rush doesn’t like to separate art and life. And he likes stuff. These two facts are immediately evident as I enter his home studio, an airy four-story townhouse in South London. The house has recently emerged from a renovation chrysalis and is suitably bright and beautiful as a result. Rush has a painter’s understanding of color and texture and the whole house is his canvas. A huge glass cabinet holds a mixture of ceramics both collected and self-made; the walls are hung with paintings by Rush and his friends. Look closely at the groups of objects clustered on surfaces and they betray the artist’s sensibility: exuberance underwritten by a keen instinct for form. Rush’s upcoming exhibition at Rod Barton will see the artist transfer parts of this cornucopia of a home to the gallery space.
The presence of found objects in addition to his own pieces reflects the fact that Rush is also an active curator with a number of projects currently underway. Just this fall he is co-curating two shows with fellow artist Alex Hoda: “Rough Music” at Cass Sculpture Foundation in Sussex, which takes its premise from medieval folk tradition, and “Wasters,” a connected exhibition at London gallery Edel Assanti. The curatorial impulse is evident both in his vision for his home as a space for artists to make and display their work and in his status as a self-confessed hoarder. Rush says of his home: “The walls, corners, spaces...that all feeds into my practice.” It’s not just a space to work, but also an active force in his creative production. Multiple strands—display, production, collaboration—clearly come together for Rush in this generative “ground,” and the fertile period his practice has entered into is testament to it.
Rush finds fault with the boundaries between life and work, and studio, gallery, and home; “I want my work to be something that arises naturally out of living, a natural by-product,” he explains. The erasure of the boundary between art and life was a goal for many artists working within the Modernist paradigm, and this vision found its way into the domestic sphere in places such as Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, former home of Tate curator Jim Ede. For Rush, it’s about breaking down “the boundary between the hermetic gallery environment and the lived environment, but also between the personal and the public to a certain degree.” He remarks that he’s always found playing the role of the artist to be “stressful,” and his studio-gallery-home environment counteracts this feeling.
This deep-rooted connection to the domestic has interesting implications for the artist’s exhibition at Rod Barton—for which a necessary division must occur. The show will present two interconnected installations: Fantasy Studio 1 and Fantasy Studio 2 (both 2015). The mise en scène constructions explore the relationship between exhibition space and artistic practice. Rush shows me a large wooden beam structure he constructed in the house’s large basement for the show, which will provide a display platform for newly made and found ceramic works. When asked how it will feel to relocate his folk-tinged pieces into the starkly minimalist environment of the gallery, Rush talks in terms of translation rather than wholesale transplant. “It’s more interesting to make it into a sculptural installation than to move things directly,” he says. “The gallery space is clean, white, something to be contended with.” Rush plans to bring a diverse assortment of objects to the gallery, not just his own work but collected pieces and work by friends, which will further probe the relation between authorship and value.
Questioning what exactly constitutes art has long been a productive mode for Rush. His genesis from painter to ceramicist is in some ways connected to this outlook, in the sense that the marginalized history of ceramics appeals to him, as does its connection to “folk” (a term he doesn’t particularly like) art. Something of a nonconformist, Rush says: “I’ve always liked the idea of, why can’t art look like this; why has it got to be finished?”
“Robert Rush: Don’t Drop it Roby!” is on view at Rod Barton, London, Sept. 4–Oct. 3, 2015.