The theme of the 3rd John Ruskin Prize in 2015, Recording Britain Now: Society, couldn’t be more apt in the current socio-political climate. Far from shying away from politics, all John Ruskin Prize nominees had plenty to draw from by faithfully depicting and interpreting what they see everyday with an unwavering focus; from the effects of gentrification, to medical procedures, consumerism and end of life care. Collectively, the work is an invaluable catalogue of modern times captured by those practiced in the art of truly looking and recording what they see. Nothing could be more on-topic than actually catching politics-in-action such as student prize winner, Robin Sukatorn. In recent times Robin has sat on a panel with the Director of the Guild of St. George, Rachel Dickinson, to discuss the influence of Guild founder John Ruskin’s ideas on his work. The Big Draw had a chat with Robin about his practice and the piece which has got everybody talking about him.
My experience with the John Ruskin Prize has really inspired me to push forward with new work, and has given me a greater sense of purpose and confidence as an artist and illustrator, particularly in terms of using drawing to record a view of contemporary society.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been drawing. I’m told by my mum that my first life-like drawing was of a snake with eyes in a Garfunkel’s restaurant when I was two, and I suppose I haven’t really stopped since then! I’ve always been very observant and attentive to the details of the world around me, and drawing is how I translate this onto paper - starting on napkins and in the margins of schoolbooks; now in sketchbooks. Drawing really gives me a unique thrill and sense of adventure - it’s a way for me to explore and record the world around me. I’m continually motivated to improve as an artist, to push forward with new work, and to keep my eyes open for different subject matter.
My practice is currently focused on recording and documenting scenes, events and people from the cultural, political and community life of the North of England, through both live and reflective drawing. I’m also experimenting with the scope of reportage illustration, incorporating different processes, techniques and materials, including traditional printmaking and digital drawing.
I was presenting my first terms’ project work during a review session for my course, and a fellow student remarked that I should look into the John Ruskin Prize since my drawings are all about recording contemporary British society- the year’s theme! As I found out more I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
I am absolutely thrilled to have won the Student Prize. To have the opportunity to exhibit in Walsall and London alongside such a diverse and inspiring group of artists was incredible; to then be recognised by the judges and hear my name read out as a prize-winner was an enormous honour and I’m extremely grateful to everyone involved.
In my drawing I intended to capture a sense of the atmosphere and energy of the scene of newly-elected Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn giving a speech in support of postal services outside Manchester Cathedral- an event which I attended myself and drew live from the crowd. My hope is that the viewer feels immersed in the scene, and gains an insight into a specific moment which reflects the wider contemporary political landscape in Britain, as well as a local snapshot of life in Manchester.
To kick-start my studies in Manchester I was looking out for interesting subject-matter from which to draw, and by chance a mass anti-austerity demonstration arrived in Manchester in my second week of term, followed by Corbyn’s speech the next day. I’m always looking for ways of combining my passion for drawing with my interest in current affairs and politics, and recording this scene served as an ideal way of launching my reportage project looking at contemporary life in the North of England. It is always a challenge capturing scenes live on the scene, from amongst a bustling crowd and with subjects which are constantly on the move. To capture a full sense of the scene, I built and reflected on my live drawings and memories from the event and completed the final composition in my studio.
I used a graphite pencil, which is usually my first port of call when drawing as I find I can wield it most naturally to produce a gestural and lively quality of line, especially suited to the quick and intuitive way in which I work.
I am working towards developing my drawings from my explorations around the North of England into a printed collection, to be presented alongside larger-scale and more experimental work at my MA degree show opening in late September. I am also very excited to have just been awarded a scholarship to attend the 7th International Urban Sketchers Symposium which this July is hosted in Manchester. Alongside my main practice, I am working on an illustration themed on railway workers which will be displayed on a passenger bridge in Manchester’s Victoria Station, and am part of a group of artists renovating and managing a basement gallery space linked to the PS Mirabel Gallery in the city centre.
A selection of my work can be seen in my online Bēhance portfolio (available at www.behance.net/RobinSukatorn), and I am active on Twitter in sharing updates and examples of my drawings- just look up my name. I am also hoping to set up my own website in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled!
Absolutely. It’s a fantastic prize celebrating and promoting the social utility of drawing, as well as the important legacy of John Ruskin. It offers a great platform for emerging artists and an opportunity to share work and meet other like-minded artists and creative professionals. It’s been an absolute privilege and pleasure to be involved, and I would really encourage anyone considering entering to do so._______________________________________________________________________________________________________If you would like to receive news on our call for artists for The 4th John Ruskin Prize and opportunities for artists sign up to find out more here. There are still limited edition and original artworks by The 3rd John Ruskin Prize finalists please available to buy, over here. News on the artist call out will be announced in November 2016. Please Click here to buy The 3rd John Ruskin Prize exhibition catalogue.