Robbie: In my portfolio you'll find sketches and paintings inspired by various swims in far-flung places, from the lakes of the Atlas Mountains to Australian billabongs. However, one of my first wild swimming exhibitions was inspired by somewhere a little closer to home. It all started with Lake Ullswater, which is roughly 14 km/9 miles in length, and also one of my favourite Lakes in Cumbria. Ever since I was young I have been swimming in its waters and I always wondered if I would be able to swim it from end to end. With an artist bursary award from VARC (Visual Arts in Rural Communities) I finally completed this ambition. Then I created a series of artworks to describe the experience. In this series I experimented with creating symbols that referenced the various parts of the landscape, as well as my physical and psychological training.
My practice uses different forms and concepts of journeys to structure and inspire the artworks of each series. Each project varies from endurance swims, treks and runs through the the Atlas Mountains, Indian Himalayas, Australian Outback and the Scottish Highlands, to name but a few. I trace a line through a landscape and follow that course, experiencing a place physically, mentally and emotionally before I try to map it artistically. I believe that in order to see and represent a subject in a unique visual way, you must first earn a new perspective from which to look from. I enjoy exploring the link between extreme physical exercise and creativity.
Literature, writing, land art and travel are important influences in my life and work. I am also passionate about rewilding processes, and the protection and preservation of the natural world and the animal kingdom.
My artwork has been exhibited in Berlin, London, Newcastle, Kendal, Istanbul and Toronto, and is featured in private collections throughout Europe, the US and Australia.
greek island swims
These sea swims were made around Paxos and Anti-Paxos, and after spending so much time in the sea in Scotland and Cumbria, the warm water was a pretty welcome change. I sat down to sketch after getting out the water, using the post-swim endorphin high as motivation.
arctic sea swims
In July 2016, my brothers and I travelled to the Arctic Circle and completed two swims across the Moskstraumen and the Saltstraumen, the two largest whirlpools in the world. These had never been swum by anyone before, and for the longer 8 km distance of the Moskstraumen, we spent 2 hrs 22 minutes in the freezing water. These drawings are records of this experience.
Lake Ullswater Project
These artworks were exhibited during my solo show at Kendal Museum. They are structured and inspired by the 12 km/7.5 mile swim I completed in Lake Ullswater, Cumbria, where I grew up. I always wondered if it would be possible to swim it from end to end. With an artist bursary award from VARC (Visual Arts in Rural Communities) I completed this ambition, and created this series of artworks to describe the experience.
The Feral Series
The Feral Series is inspired by the idea of rewilding. I love the idea of reintroducing animal species that have been pushed into extinction, or extremely dwindling numbers, through hunting and habitat destruction by humans. Rewilding is, for me, also an important concept for humans too, and I think, on some level, it is why I like to swim across whirlpools or trek through mountains. I enjoy reading about how different people embrace this concept (George Monbiot, Henry Thoreau, Jack London, Richard Long, etc...). The Feral Series is my homage to those animals and these ideas.
Sketches of Reine Harbour in the Norwegian Lofoten Islands, where the still waters are wrapped in stilted rorbuer (fishermen's cabins), seahouses and drying racks.
Here's a few of the exhibitions I've put on in London, Berlin, Newcastle, Istanbul, Kendal, Toronto and other places. You can find more artwork from my portfolio by visiting my website.