A Local Artist’s Perspective: Molly Rooke on Covid, Climate and Creativity in Lockdown
Local artist, Molly Rooke talks to Exeposé about her postponed exhibition at Exeter Phoenix and how the environment is at the top of her artistic agenda
What draws you to Exeter?
There is a continual drive towards creativity within the city and I’m excited to see what will develop from new projects underway, such as Exeter Phoenix supporting contemporary artists.
I have always been interested in the historical city of Exeter and the Roman walls which shaped it. Exeter has a creative energy that is supportive and communal. I Used to live in London for a bit but found it overwhelming, particularly as someone who has grown up in the countryside. Exeter felt like the best of both worlds with a solid creative heart and speedy transport links to London and Bristol.
Tell us about the art exhibition that has been postponed at Exeter Phoenix.
The piece is part of my developmental work which was created using darn thread. The inspiration originates from the first lockdown where I struggled with my creativity and lost all creative hope! I was lacking impetus and drive to produce anything creative. However, just before lockdown I went to Bunyip Craft on Fore Street and bought some embroidery threads. Over lockdown, I taught myself how to darn socks and was inspired by the medium.
Through using embroidery within the images, I began to think about the idea of fixing and repairing the damaged coastline. Since then I have noticed a real shift in my work. Perseveration, heritage and the impacts of climate change have become major themes within my artistic progression. This developmental project enables a proposal for a larger body of work such as public installations and further integration of nature within my work.
Preservation, heritage and the impacts of climate change have become major themes within my artistic progression
Do you think it is important that artists politicise their work and have agendas that aim to raise awareness about subjects like climate change?
I think politics always feeds in to art one way or another, often without realising. In my most recent body of work I hadn’t considered climate change but as the project grew I realised it was about preserving, fixing and resorting the coastline which feeds into the climate conversation. I believe it is the job of an artist to channel what’s happening in the world through visual means.
Has your style of art changed from your time at university to where you are now?
Reinventing my work is a gradual and subtle process; being bold and radical is a great challenge. The core of my work is centred around bright colours and graphic imagery. I used to teach an undergraduate programme which meant I was regurgitating the same projects over the years. This meant I had little time to spend creating as most of my energies were directed at teaching. In a way, the lockdown allowed space to develop ideas and push projects in different directions.
Has lockdown helped with providing headspace?
Lockdown enabled me to take time off from my work which removed the pressure to produce and make art. It gave myself space to reassess and provide a fresh view on things. The studio closure during lockdown made the prospect of going back to the studios more exciting. This in turn helped nurture my creativity.