Robin Clare creates works of art with riffs on colour, rhythm and repetition of Dancehall, the dominant pop culture of her native island, Jamaica. Inspired by dancehall and the aesthetics of Jamaican party promotions, she produces a clash of hand-drawn typography, bold large-scale paintings, illustrations and hand-drawn animation. Referencing dance moves, risqué party names and the sexually provocative imagery surrounding the culture, Robin combines pop art, comic book, cinematic and advertising influences. In her paintings, she strives to represent a society that is imaginative, inventive, colourful, resilient and never shy of a likkle controversy.
1. Where in Jamaica are you from?
I’m from beautiful MoBay.
2. You now live in Australia. How did that happen?
It’s a bit of a boring story. My other half got a job here and we came over to see what life was like on the other side of the world. We’re still here for now.
3. Tell us about “Reggae Girlz Doodle” featured on Google? What was the inspiration?
It was a real honour to be asked to represent Jamaica with a World Cup doodle. The Reggae Girlz have blown me away, it’s such a great classic underdog story. The support on the island and of the Jamaican diaspora shows just how strong we are, as a nation of people we can make things happen. Especially with strong Jamaican woman power driving things, big up Cedella Marley and each Reggae Girl!
My inspiration came from Jamaican’s celebratory spirit. Jamaicans are one of the only nations I’ve seen where everyone almost on a daily basis wears either the national colours or non-official national reggae colours, I wanted to capture that feeling of national pride and celebration. Along with elements of what makes Jamaica so unique, lush greenery and beautiful wildlife, it’s ability for people of all ages to join in and enjoy the incredible music culture. I had to string up a sound in the background!
4. How has the “Reggae Girlz Doodle” changed your life in the last few days?
It’s been great. It has definitely helped to raise my profile as a Jamaican illustrator/artist.
5. Your work features Jamaica’s dancehall culture. How did you become interested in featuring Jamaican dancehall culture?
You can’t grow up on the island without having the music culture in your bones. I think it’s such an important element on the island; it works to address social, economic and political issue in a way that’s accessible for everyone. It’s also played its part on the international music scene which gives a great sense of pride for Jamaicans. Dancehall just felt like a natural subject for my art; it’s political, joyous, dangerous, it speaks of class and struggle. There is so much inspiration that can be taken from it.
6. Which is your favorite piece of artwork you have created and why?
It’s hard to say. I end up liking best the thing I’m working on at the moment. But if I were pushed it would have to be a painting of Lady Saw I did that celebrates her song ‘What is Slackness’. I love how she throws the hypocrisy back in the face of her critics. For me, that’s the power of both reggae and dancehall music.
7. What dancehall artist stimulates your imagination best?
I find the strong female voices in dancehall very inspiring; Spice, Lady Saw, Shenseea, Macka Diamond, Lady G… the list goes on.
8. What do you do for fun (apart from art)?
There’s a nice little dancehall/reggae scene here in Australia with a kind of family vibe. It’s nice to go hang out, listen to some tunes and catch a dance. I also love taking my two left feet to dance classes when I can find time.
9. What is the strangest question you have been asked about Jamaica in Australia?
What country is Jamaica a part of?
10. Where in Australia can you get great Jamaican food?
There are a few good Jamaican cooks that have food stalls at various events. I’m loving Jamaica Delight at the moment. They do some nice box lunch, like at home. Also, every once in a while, local markets will have things like breadfruit and plantain. I always have an eagle eye open.
11. What advice would you give a young artist just starting and wondering where to begin?
Just go for it. Art is definitely not a money thing, it’s a passion thing. Let that passion be your driver.
12. Thank you for the interview. Do you have any closing thoughts?
I love that I have gotten the opportunity to let Jamaican culture, especially dancehall culture, shine through my art.
Learn more about Robin Clare on her website, Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter.