Inside the “cabinet of curiosities” with Flora Robinson (FR)

This month, Nafasi is proud to be hosting Flora Robinson, a French artist based in London who describes her work as a “cabinet of curiosities.”  We sat down with her at the start of a 6 week residency for more information about her style and further insights into her mindset. 

Welcome Flora. How you are finding it so far?

Very good. I have already starting to find different ideas. I have been getting ideas ever since I got on the plane. I just need to find the right materials for them.

Have you been here to Tanzania before?

Yes, two years ago. I visited a friend in Iringa. I loved it. But I was so disappointed that I didn’t I didn’t get to visit Nafasi. My friend told me a lot about it. So when I saw the residency opening on the website I applied and I was surprised to find I got it. And so now I’m here.

Karibu. We’re so happy to have you.
So you are from France but you are based in London, correct…

Yes, that’s right. I have lived in London for five years now. It is my dream city. When I went I was only going to stay a little while but now its five years (laughs). Before that I was living in Toulouse for eight years after I went to art school. But originally I am from Alsace in the north east.

Can I ask you a separate question, maybe not so related to this? How have you managed to keep your life offline, we can’t find a photo or anything of you anywhere?

(laughs) I use social media for work, to gather details, or to retain some images. For me Instagram is visual notebook. I use it for that purpose and to follow accounts about creating. But not for personal pictures.

Did you always want to be an artist?

I always wanted to but I was never certain I would succeed. After high school like many people I had no idea about what I wanted to do. So I took English, because it was what I enjoyed, but the only work out of that was teaching, which wasn’t what I wanted to do.
But my mother was very good. She was artist and she reminded and encouraged me about art. I started taking evening art classes. And I thought this it. Why didn’t I do this earlier (laughs).

I’m sure it helped to take the journey

I know, but its ridiculous these school kids get asked about their future. No one can know such things when they are eighteen. I was lucky that my mother was an artist. If I listened to my teachers it would be different. Many teachers focus on money. Not fulfillment.

How would you describe your work?

I struggle to talk about my work…I experiment, a lot with everyday materials. I see the way I work as art lab, where I make little experiments. I like to keep everything, even the accidents. I like to make small environments, to make something that is alive out of things that are not alive. Things that are sometimes a little unsettling, a little creepy.

I notice you use words like small and little, is this a direction or is work exclusively small scale?

My work is almost exclusively small scale. Or at least it always begins with something small. The large pieces are normally large out of accumulation. I can start with something small, simple and build into something that looks different, in accumulation. Something you can barely trace to back to its small self. And I like to do this with paper, tape and other very cheap materials.


Who are you influenced by? Which other artists inspire you?

Just the names?

Sure, just the names

Sarah Sze, Toba Khedoori. I think the work of these artists is worth looking for.

Is there anything in you have planned for this residency? Generally?

I was planning to do something on the floor, an installation that might involve grid patterns but I’m still working on the idea. So don’t have to many expectations (laughs)

No, we’re very casual, be free to experiment

I would like to also have an Instagram that documents my time here. So if you can think of name, maybe that can be the first project (laughs)

Ok, I’ll work on that. Thank you for your time Flora we’re so excited to have you.

Flora will be at Nafasi until April. Don’t miss her Artist Hangout alongside Zimbabwean artist Kresiah Mukwazhi on March 7. 4.30-5.30 pm. Entry is free.