Jeff Rob - Conversations with Artists
What is the art of what you do?
It's taking what's in my mind and making it physical. Every waking second my thoughts are about making pictures. After all, they don't come out the ether. They come into being because I'm thinking about images - a lot. It's also all about the filtration process because I have an awful lot of terrible ideas.
In terms of lenticular photography, I feel like an early hunter when there was a ton of buffalo roaming around and I'm picking them off, one by one. I feel that way because no one else is doing it.
Is that what drives you, that no one's done it?
No what drives me is that if I couldn't make pictures I'd be miserable. But it is fun knowing no one else has done it. I can't tell you how many art fairs I've been to where the only other lenticular piece is of an eye opening and closing. So when people see my stuff - it's just visually completely different. They wouldn't even perhaps relate the medium as the same thing. But I think there are many untapped genres of art - from abstract painting to figurative painting to sculpture - it's a big feast and you can just dip into whatever amazing food you like.
There are a million things you could do - what is it that you do well?
Exactly. And how much time and effort do I want to invest before I decide if it's really good or not.
So what ties it all together?
Me. My brain. My background, my experiences. They all seem pretty obviously linked. I've massively restricted what I do in terms of technique -- you've got to choose your weapons, really. And so I'm quite happy with the tools I've spent a lifetime learning how to use - although there's no one I admire more than Robert Rauschenberg. He won the Venice Painting Prize and then never painted another picture again. He started doing dance projects, then he collected items from the beach and made sculptures. It was a very brave artistic route to take - to win the most major prize possible and then never paint again. That would be something to be proud of. But for me, obviously, 3D photography and multiple camera setups and these tiny little movies and working within those constraints... there's so much to do that hasn't been done in the 3D lenticular genre. It seems churlish to then just out of bloodymindedness to do sculptures just because it isn't the thing that I've been doing. I feel like I'm wandering alone in an undiscovered country.
Do you think bravery is what makes the truly great artists?
I think that's true for some and not for others, actually. Some of the great painters had very rich families and some of them had no money at all, and yet continued to paint. Van Gogh is an obvious one. Never had any money, supported by his brother, but the urge to paint and draw was so strong...
Sounds as if you have that same drive.
I do feel that my life is completely unfulfilled if I'm not making pictures or thinking of making pictures. You know it does seem to be what I'm here for. The physicality of making the thing that I'm photographing is also part of it -- and actually still making the prints - at least the first one. That's important to me. I don't want to have a team of assistants do it. I might get an assistant to help with some of the legwork, but I want to be like Matisse - cutting up paper when he was blind. He wasn't telling someone else to do it. You read about artists with such bad arthritis that they tape the brush to their hand so they can still paint. It's the act of it that's very important. It's ephemeral, what drives me. It's something that defies words. It just is.
Do what you're going to do, because you're in it.
Achieving some level of financial success makes it easier. It frees you up. I'm very happy for all that. It sounds trite, but it is the journey, isn't it? There is no destination. There is no ultimate perfect image. It simply can't exist. We can be making pictures for another million years and there still won't be a perfect picture.
A favorite quote is that if the goal of an ultimate music composition was to arrive at the end it would simply be just one note.
It's a bit like looking for the perfect color. All colors are amazing. You don't have to choose just one, do you? And therein lies the essence of the journey. There was a great documentary about Paula Rego, the Portuguese painter, made by her son. He asked her what her best achievement was and she said it was winning a prize when she was in college. She had been surrounded by big-name men who were going to do great things and she was just a young immigrant girl. She defeated them all by winning this prize. Some 60 years later she still thinks it was the best thing she had achieved, and she's still trying to trump it - despite all her success.
I'm hoping that for me, and this is what the gallerists are telling me who are following my work, that the best is yet to come. Either that or they're slagging me off - stop producing this rubbish or keep going because they think, like I do, that this is undiscovered country. Maybe that's my job. To trail blaze lenticular photography. Maybe it'll be seen as a precursor to augmented realities.
You're an explorer in a sense.
My work doesn't fit in the digital age at all, perhaps in the same the way that sculpture doesn't. You can't experience a sculpture on a screen. I was looking at Michaelangelo's Davide in person a few weeks ago. The pictures I had always seen of it are pretty sad - terrible lighting. But to physically see it and study the actual marks on it - it's a totally different experience than looking at it in a book or on a screen. Unless you see it in person you have no idea of the scale, for example. It was created for the top of a building and they couldn't get it up there or support it's weight.
With my stuff, not everyone likes it. Some people hate it, which I see as a good thing. Because if it evokes a strong negative reaction then there's always the opposite, that someone will love it. I very rarely hear 'it's alright.' So as long as I'm getting either 'I hate it' or 'I love it' then I'm ok.
If you could go back and sit down with 10 year old you and give yourself some advice what might you say?
Follow your heart and not convention. Don't do anything illegal -- too illegal. Don't do backup stuff. Do the thing that you want to do. That's what I would say. I've got a son who's 7. My only wish for him is that he has a passion. It's probably slightly irresponsible, but I really don't care what he does with his exams. He likes drawing, for example and I massively encourage that, obviously. But really, you can't be told things. You have to make the mistakes yourself. I'd probably tell myself: 'there's no use in telling you anything because you won't believe me.' And actually, if you change one thing you change everything. Regret nothing.
Jeff Robb is currently best known for his lenticular photographic work focusing on the female nude and abstract forms in space, which he makes in series. The artist has recently begun to produce bronze sculptures working with the female nude, a subject familiar to him, using cutting edge modelling technology combined with historic casting techniques. This radical development is typical of Robb’s open experimental approach in making art, using any combination of tools and technology available to him.
Learn more and see Jeff's work here.