Australian Fine Artist

Cameron Robbins

Visiting Artist Chat at Chisholm Frankston

Cameron had me scratching my head wondering where I had seen him before. I knew that I had been in an auditorium listening to him talk about his weather driven machinery but couldn’t place him! Fortunately I have a husband who enjoys coming to talks with me when time permits. He reminded me that it was at a City of Kingston Arts event last year that we saw a video presentation and talk by Cameron. Then it all fell into place. To Cameron’s credit he gave a good talk that I remembered well, I just couldn’t remember where!


More work has been done both in the country and overseas since that chat in Kingston. Most recently would be the piece that many would have seen at the Melbourne Now event. The piece for that was so big that it had to go into the courtyard behind the National Gallery in St Kilda Road. That was the place for the launch, so even though behind the building Cameron’s work was seen by thousands of visitors.

So getting on with what it is that Cameron does. 

Cameron trained as a sculptor but has changed the direction of his practice to building “machinery” that is driven by either battery or the weather or a mix of those to push and drive pens around on paper that is fixed either on a cylinder or a flat surface. The resulting “drawings” are a reflection of the weather over anything from a day to a few months. The pen is pushed around creating patterns that change as the weather does. As the paper is subjected to the elements, rain, frost and heat can change the patterns or add their own unique marks to the piece.

Cameron has completed several of these and they are displayed overseas and in several places in Australia. Many have been funded by grants from state, local and Federal arts groups or foundations.

Most recently sound and video have become a part of the process as Cameron seeks to incorporate more into each piece that he designs. This makes them more interesting as interactive installations in public places. The videos are a way of recording how each work reacts in each location as he often relocates to several spots to see how the varying conditions change to finished product.


I was, honestly a bit confused about my opinion of Cameron’s work. Art or Engineering? Creative or inspired by mechanics?

We had a lively discussion after the talk where we were asked what we thought “fine art” really was and how, if at all our own art may have been influenced by Cameron’s presentation.

Really, even though very well built and presented, and very clever and in some ways unique, for me Cameron’s work is not fine art. Creative Engineering is what I came up with as my best description. For me fine art is done when the hand of the artist has direct contact if you will, to the object they are creating. I see that hand of the creator in sculpture, painting, drawing even print making to a certain degree as the original marks are often there. I know that is a rather traditional way of looking at it, but since we are all allowed to have our own opinion, this is mine.

Fine art is not wall art, it isn’t graphic design, it isn’t ephemeral art in a lot of cases (which I put into the public art or installation category). This doesn’t mean that I can not see quality in it, so when the mention of us teaching art came up, I was comfortable in my ability to be able to assess a student’s work in the future.

This all has nothing to do with teaching or assessing art as a tutor, but rather my personal opinion which is something else all together.

As for as informing me about my own arts practice, I think I am getting a good handle on where I am going for now. Cameron’s work, interesting as it is, doesn’t really make me want to change direction or add anything to what I am doing. It may have inspired others to extend their ideas, and if they were heading that way already it may give impetus to keep going and try more inventive ideas.

We had an interesting talk and lively discussion which is always good. My thanks to Cameron for his presentation and to David Salter for encouraging us think a little more broadly afterwards!


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