Carapace opens at The Artshop and Chapel

Carapace opens on 3rd February at the Artshop, Abergavenny.
“Our first exhibition of the year, Philippa Robbins’ Carapace, is an exhibition in which the artist gives us a glimpse into her imaginative world where a cat-wrecked jumper is cherished, a crow and its maker guard each other and the handmade puppets have their own passport photographs.

detail2A  detail from a drawing of a scene from Ravel’s opera for children L’Enfant et les Sortilèges. Has My Baby Been Good? 100cm x 140cm Conté on paper. 

mw3The Keepers of Caecarrog acrylic on board 60cm x 59cm

Themes which were introduced in Magical Thinking, of children’s clothing and of safe-keeping, are expanded upon in Carapace.
Philippa Robbins’ imagination is populated with corvids, “the dark stars of the bird world,” with puppets, imaginary worlds and relics of infancy which probe primal and uncanny dimensions, and recall the delights and fears of childhood.
Her paintings are hard-won and emerge after much editing and process, but drawing is always at the start of every piece of work and serves as an intimate clue to the workings of a mind which impresses with its sheer originality.  Elementary, common, childhood experiences are transferred into adult existence, not just through motifs and personal and scavenged imagery, but through her artistic mode of thought. Being so layered, the resulting works seem at once to be both removed from and more closely woven to their original subjects, like a pressed flower or a film still.  
Philippa Robbins lives and works in South Wales.  Born in London in 1964, she studied at LaSalle SIA, Singapore and then at Cardiff College of Art. Her work has been exhibited widely, nationally and internationally, in both solo and group shows. 

puppets in print

Some work for my studio walls, on newspaper to give the puppets a ready-made background. 


IMG_8960Hilary who deserves some fuller hair and a dress.


Thomas. A little finer-featured here than in reality.




Jackie. Still without a body, on her stand.





Me. “Do Something”.



the marionettes’ progress

Finished. It measures 52 cm x 180 cm unframed.

IMG_8992Details of the marionettes

IMG_8996 IMG_8997 IMG_8999and of the shadows.


Last week, the gallery owner came to see the framed work for Magical Thinking in August. She saw this tacked to the wall and asked if it could be in the show too. It hadn’t been my intention but she was welcome to it. I told her about my (still evolving!) idea to paint the marionettes individually, to cut them to shape and hang them high on a wall. She liked the idea a lot and has asked to have the work and make an exhibition of it at her new gallery, a chapel, as soon as the body of work is complete.

This, meanwhile, will be framed and hung in Magical Thinking.

puppets’ progress


IMG_3301Puppets hanging in the Toone Theatre, Brussels.

IMG_3776Sketch book puppet.

After having watched one performance and having seen the rows of puppets at the Toone Theatre I made a sketch of one of the puppets we’d seen; it’s one of those sketches whose job is to lead somewhere rather than be an end in itself.  While I was drawing this I was thinking about that serried, wall-hung audience and two ideas played around in my head. The first was to make many small paintings of the puppet heads and hang them close together like a theatre audience. The other was this – a frieze of puppets. Luckily, the following day we were able to go back and I could take the photos I needed to make the big drawing.

Since then I’ve been wondering about merging the two ideas, painting cut-outs and collaging them onto a long painting.

IMG_3774 IMG_3775 IMG_3772 IMG_3770

toone puppets

A drawing on lining paper of puppets from the Toone Puppet Theatre in Brussels.  There’s still 10 puppets to draw, then the shadows, their wires and background detail, it’s 52cm x 190cm and it’s already taken ages.

I really like the idea of huge procession of them circling an entire room above a picture rail, but I keep on having to remind myself just how long it would take.



Last year our friends Clive and Peter commissioned some tiles for their hearth to be made for them by their friend Meri Wells.  Meri’s tin-glazed tiles were in the Delft tradition but with a Welsh feel, many featuring characters and scenes from around Ty Isaf where they live. No one who visits their house can fail to stop for ages in front of the hearth to read the tiles, spot the references; familiar birds, garden scenes and house-scapes.  I fell in love with them.

Then, in November, Dave and I went to see the exhibition Wunderkabinett by the illustrator and print maker Paul Bommer’s whose prints I really enjoy for being so witty, skillful and sure. As well as a room and hall full of prints, on the mantle shelf of the fire place (the exhibition was in the ground floor of a beautiful Georgian house on Flores Street) were a series of faux-Delft tiles that Paul had made.

They are delightful and all, unsurprisingly, sold but more can be seen here.

Not long after that I read, via Paul,  about Simon Pettet’s tiles at Dennis Severs’ house in Spitalfield’s Life – the tiles are very Delft like and feature characters and events from every day Spitalfields. The article is well worth a read.

So, just before Christmas and at a loose end, I was looking around the studio to tidy it up and saw my stack of 12 cm MDF squares which I’d cut in order to make a long series of small paintings and knew what I was going to be doing with them instead.

The MDF was primed and painted in off white paint, then the image drawn and then painted with ink. When that was dry crackle glaze was painted on top.  The images are all of objects that were nearby in  my studio, I think they’d make for a strange hearth in a child’s nursery.

  These are the ‘test run’.

Doll’s Head tile

Ted Head tile

P is for Pelvis tile

Dental Cast tile

Child’s Shoe tile