Artist Of The Week : Robyn Nichol

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Welcome to artist of the week. We'll be introducing some of our favourite creatives, picking their brains, and showcasing it right here on the blog for you to read every week. First up we have Yorkshire based artist Robyn Nichol, who graduates from Lancaster University next year and has a penchant for Aunt Bessie's.

For those who don't know, can you tell us a bit about who you are and the work you make?

I'm a 21 year old artist from Keighley, West Yorkshire, currently in my final year of my Fine Art BA at Lancaster University. I make work that focuses solely on exploring Yorkshire culture and what it means to be from an area mainly through the medium of textiles. I focus on pride, community, and industry to provide an insight into the Yorkshire way of life.

What inspires your work?

One of the biggest inspirations for my work is Yorkshire's historical textile industry, I think subconsciously this has been the main inspiration for my drive to produce textile pieces. In my work I want to show what it means to be from Yorkshire and I take inspiration from everyday life in the county; Yorkshire dialect, Yorkshire foods and Yorkshire brands. I like my work to have a tongue in cheek element too, almost an over-exaggeration of Yorkshire-ness, and I take inspiration from the Yorkshire Problems and Yorkshire Slang Twitter accounts for this.

Are you a proud northerner?

I'm incredibly proud to come from Yorkshire and the North of England. Since I started making work specifically about Yorkshire at the beginning of 2016 I realised that although I might be making work in a university context mainly, I don't want my work to only be accessible to those who have an arts education. Keighley, where I'm from, doesn't have an arts scene so my main focus is to always make sure that my work can be related to by individuals that the very middle class art world excludes. I'm not into producing high brow work at all.

How did you get into embroidery?

I got into embroidery after discovering Louise Bourgeois' work in 2014. Initially I made very feminist art and went down more of a confessional route with my art focusing taboo subjects in relation to women. However, I think my use of embroidery is much more effective now with my change in subject matter as it's so deeply imbedded in textile history.

Your work spans a variety of media. Do you have a favourite?

I think my favourite medium has to be textile printing! I absolutely love embroidery and I do find it rewarding when I finish a piece after all that time I put into it, but textile printing is something I've really wanted to do for the past year. After a lot of trial and error I've managed to find the right source for producing my pieces and I've currently got two prints being produced: one depicting Aunt Bessie's Yorkshire puddings and the other celebrating Dynamo the magician and his Bradford roots.

You're very vocal about supporting Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party - how do you feel about the state of UK politics at the moment?

Before Jeremy Corbyn became well known I was becoming very disillusioned with the Labour Party as a young person because I was sick of it being Tory-lite, and I contemplated ending my membership. However, Jez is exactly what I want from the Labour Party because he fights for working people and represents exactly what the Labour Party was built on, although a lot of his critics seem to have forgotten that. It's a difficult one because a lot of people think that he could never win an election but then it's the issue of do you keep the Labour party as repetitive Tory-lite just to be in with slightly more chance of attracting the electorate, or do you take the Labour Party back to its roots and fight for what is right and offer people a real alternative? Thousands of people have been attracted by the alternative that Jeremy offers. After voting remain in the EU referendum and being gutted about the result, Jeremy has been a figure that makes me hopeful about the future and that's exactly what I want from the Labour Party. I'm hoping that he smashes the Labour leadership election. Also hoping that Theresa May stops referring to herself as a feminist ASAP.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I've got a couple of exhibitions coming up in 2017 with Up North Arts Collective, a student run collective based in Lancaster, where I'll be showing some new work which I'm really excited about! Along with those I'm currently in the process of planning a performance piece in rural Barnsley inspired by Barry Hines' 'A Kestrel for a Knave', and then I've also got my degree show coming up in Summer 2017. I'm hoping to eventually work towards putting on my first solo show sometime after I graduate next year.

Chips and curry sauce, or Yorkshire pudding and gravy?

Yorkshire pudding and gravy, every time. No bother.

Finally, if you could collaborate with any artist who would it be?

I'd absolutely love to collaborate with Jeremy Deller! He was one of the main inspirations for the political themes in my work, particularly the emphasis on the North. I remember that the two pieces of work that stuck out for me when I first discovered him where 'The Search for Bez' and 'Procession', the banners that are produced for him by Ed Hall are great.

You can check out more of Robyn's work here and follow @robynnichol

Interview by Beccy Hill