Emily Harriet Bülbring Robertson – Merit Winner 2017



Sasol New Signatures

Where does your passion for art comes from? 


My grandmother. Everything she did was art. She loved working with her hands and making things. She taught me how to collage. I have this memory from when I was child of my parents and family members discussing what I was going to be when I grew up. Everyone said doctor but my grandmother insisted that I was meant to do art and well…here I am. My parents also hung prints of Monet’s water lilies above my crib so maybe that contributed as well!

Briefly describe your artistic journey up until the point of entering Sasol New Signatures? 


I didn’t study art in school until grade 10 because my parents were still pretty keen on me being a doctor. But once I started… I haven’t stopped…not once. I have just submitted my MFA (I’m holding thumbs it all goes well).

What motivated you to enter the Sasol New Signatures art competition?

I entered Sasol New Signatures after finishing a huge project when I didn’t know what to do with myself or “how to art”. I tried to imagine what other up and coming artists might be doing and… just did it.

What excites you about the creative process? 


The making. Once all the planning and conceptualising is done, the challenges faced when trying to bring to life that which only exists somewhere in the jumbled mess that is my mind is exciting, frustrating and exhilarating. I don’t much care for the finished piece. There is nothing left there for me to play with.

Sasol New Signatures

Tell us about your preferred medium/s …and why? 


My preferred mediums are anything that isn’t paint. My father has a deep love for the impressionists. He often asks why I don’t paint anymore and I always reply but I do. Collage in my mind is painting. The combination of tiny components to make a larger installation is painting. It’s my favourite joke. I am a painter who owns no paint! I prefer mediums that add meaning and are true to the concept. I’ll use anything and everything to make work as long as it adds depth conceptually.

If you could summarise your work in three independent words, what would it be? 


Hilarious. Feminist. Collage.

Did this competition teach you anything about yourself? 


It has probably taught me to trust myself (a bit more). It’s wonderful to see my approach has value other than in the giggles it causes amongst my family and friends.

Which local artists do you admire? 


Oh wow so many. The first that comes to mind is Dada Khanyisa. Her work just sings to me and makes me smile. The colours, the sense of design, the tongue in cheek humour, the subtlety of the deeper meaning… it’s all just great. Another one of my favourites is the young, all black, female collective iQhiya. Individually the women who make up the collective are incredible (and I deeply admire and follow all of their work) but together… They’ve come together to face, head on, an art system that is still dominated by and favours white male artists and are really just shaking it all up. My deepest regret this year has been that I couldn’t get to Documenta to see them perform.

Sasol New Signatures

What are you currently working on/What is next for you as an artist? 
 I’m quite nervous to speak about things I’m in the process of making because well… If I was great at explaining myself with words I probably would have been a writer… But I’ll try…so I am making a series of silly post card collages. The working title is Wish You Were Here. They are basically just a series of imaginary adventures I could have been on instead of locking myself away to work.

What impact would winning this competition have on you? 


I think winning a competition like this, even making the top 100 is such an incredible sign of affirmation. Creating is hard. There are loads of amazing artists out there and often making “great” art can be very hit and miss. To have such a clear sign saying “Sometimes your work isn’t as crap as you think it is” is huge. Maybe if I win, one of the galleries I’ve been calling to show my work will call back. That would be pretty cool too!

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