The Elements

Design / Life

Energy and forces. The elements, currents and cycles. The randomness of nature.

Artist Cameron Robbins, currently exhibiting in Albany, makes mechanical drawing instruments, harnessing the energy of the wind to create powerful abstract works “based on interaction with natural forces and the elements.” He creates devices — wind, solar, or ocean-powered mechanical systems — at special sites around the globe to transcribe wind patterns. One such site is Albany, WA, where Robbins was commissioned for an Artist-in-Residence stint at a school and as a headline act at the Albany Arts Festival.

Robbin’s work gains attention for its making visible the intangible, as much as for its nexus between engineering, art and the weather.

His wind instruments can withstand 90kms an hour. “I use a wind meter to ascertain the exact wind speed. I have come to realise that it [the art that results] is a lot about topography, the hills and the landscape and how they influence the wind. I have produced installations on top of city buildings in Melbourne where it is very turbulent, with wind coming over the buildings like water rapids, like a vortex, and those drawings get very circular and chaotic, whereas at a site like this [in Albany] you get a lot more clean air and you can see how the constant wind has an effect on the drawings.”

On working in extreme wind conditions

“On top of the Nullarbor Plain, the wind comes up vertically and spirals around like a barrel or a horizontal vortex. It creates big, round drawings. I spent three months in Norway just below the Arctic Circle. The northerly wind up there is freezing.”

On working with school students

“I have been working with students to create abstract drawings. It’s a way of drawing — non-objective — which is about lines of energy that create big, vortex-like drawings. The students love it. It releases them from the tyranny of imagery we are sick of. We have cameras for that. There’s a million cameras in the world to take images. Kids enjoy doing something completely different and abstract.”

On the Albany Arts Festival

On the upper deck of the Albany Entertainment Centre, facing south-west, Robbins features an installation of his portable wind machine, while, inside, an exhibition of his wind drawings hangs. In person every day, he is available to speak to the visiting public as they viewed his installation and works.

On residencies

“Artist-in Residence programmes are very important. For artists to visit special places to create work and share it with students and the public is really beneficial.”

On Albany

“I love the way that people here are so connected with the elements, working with their local landscapes.”

Robbins works are at once a tangible, visceral product of the natural world —the wind, the weather — and ephemera, frail and delicate. Such is the contrast particular to his oeuvre, which is remarkable for its scale and magnitude, as well as its simplicity. On permanent exhibition at MONA, his work exemplifies the intersection of nature, art and engineering, where he as the artist, collaborates with nature to produce astounding works on paper. 2019/