Culloden Robertson is a graduate of the Glasgow school of art, recipient of the RSA’s New Contemporary award and a firm lover of frivolity. Culloden’s work draws inspiration from 17th century Rococo and modern day fashion subcultures to create oil portraits on top of intricately cut sheets of wood or small objects. Her overriding theme is escapism.
“Most people play dress up during childhood, but I don’t think it’s any different to when someone puts on something a slightly jazzier for a Saturday night in an effort to just feel a little bit more. My portraits are about capturing that feeling; the dreamy imagined world where everyone is something fantastical and far from every day. Just like my paintings, our dreams can be so fragile and small.”
“I’m constantly fighting with my process because I’m a very haphazard person who likes to run away from everything but I also like to keep my work very controlled and planned. There’s a massive struggle of duality there. The whole image has to be worked out beforehand so that I can design the frame for it, or vice versa, and as the woodgrain picks up paint I can’t undo misplaced brushstrokes. The laser cutting machines aren’t any less forgiving - I once designed a frame that had to be cut five times before it came out properly!
This was maddening when I took part in the Edinburgh heat of the Sky Arts Portrait competition in 2014 because I had no idea who I would be painting until the day. It was still very exciting to be in a room with so many portrait artists all working at once, but unfortunately with the four hour time limit there wasn't any spare time for comparing methods.”
"My work has a lot of femininity and kitsch in it, in the beginning I was scared of that. During my time at art school it didn’t feel very fashionable to make work that was kitschy without being ironic about it; and as gender is such a huge and heavy topic that I couldn’t risk being ham-handed with that either.
I had started off in such a light and whimsical place but once I began reading so much about the theory of beauty in art and the duty of the artist I felt trapped in my books and stopped painting for a while. Time out from your art is good, but it took me a long period after my graduation until I could shake off the fear of kitsch.
“In all seriousness I can now admit that I do love pretty things.”
Culloden is currently focusing on both her drawing practice and planning her next portraits in which there will be more inclusion of the modern world but in a way that’s “still safely away at arms reach."