Robi Walters Presents 365: Every Day Counts at the Hospital Club
All art is personal and a great deal of it serves at least partially as therapy for the creator. 365: Every Day Counts is nonetheless one of the more intimate and internalised artistic experiments you will find. For the project, Robi Walters established a routine of painting every day for a whole year (specifically 2011, although he has continued the process) to represent whatever moods he was feeling on whatever material he could find.
Walters chose this path due after prompting from his mentor, Turner Prize recipient Charles Ofili, as a way of productively dealing with the mental strain of separation from his partner and children. The paintings, which are placed on available material such as cardboard, newspapers, album covers, to name a few, feature abstract patterns and swirling colours to reflect the inner harmonies and disruptions of Walters’ mind over the year. These range from banal (being hangover and buying chocolate from a shop) to revealing (reporting his family miss him while he is abroad) to general (reacting to news events such as Chinese repression of artists, the earthquakes in Japan, Apple updates or even Novak Djokovic overwhelming Rafael Nadal).
It’s difficult to judge the artistic merits or lack thereof of 365, as Walters has gone on a creative venture that in many ways seems removed the impulse of creating art, in which the creator is conscious of judgement or reaction from outside viewers. It’s too modest and genuine to be solipsistic, but it’s hard not to feel that, unlike the title’s suggestion, not every of his 365 days counts as much as others, as some have more interesting visual resonance than others by a margin. This is probably unavoidable in a venture that puts value on quantity over quality, highlighting the limitations that exist with such an approach. Still, it makes for a worthwhile exhibition, albeit one that defies value judgement due to its personal nature.
A panel discussion alongside the exhibition entitled Every Thought Counts included Walters himself, James Brett (founder of the Museum of Everything), and four psychiatrists Drs David O’Flynn (Adamson Collection Trust), Quinton Deeley (Lecturer at Kings College), Lucy Wilford (Bethlehem Hospital) and Robin Jacobson (Keats House), whilst DJ and all-round wordsmith Charlie Dark (founder of Run Dem Records) served as emcee. Dark was a very engaging and smooth figure, which enabled some of the more introverted speakers such as Walters to relax into the situation.
The group provided a very interesting dialogue on the link between mental health and creativity; Walters elaborated a little on the difficulty his art poses for him but also how it gives him a purpose outside of his family. The esteemed psychiatrists blended real-life anecdotal stories with references to Shakespeare, Michelangelo and, of course, Van Gogh, the poster boy of art married to mental instability. Though at points the charismatic and witty Brett risked turning the discussion into a one-man show, and Jacobson provoked controversy by erring on romanticising madness as a form of creativity (which elicited some rather indulgent responses from the audience that prevented the discussion from progressing), overall this was an illuminating talk that helped bring the main exhibition into focus.
Robi Walters presents 365: Every Day Counts is at the Hospital Club from 24th until 27th March 2016, for further information visit here.