Pictured left to right: 'Steel Eye', 'Concha' and 'Positively Negative' which are being added to the Arts Council Modern and Contemporary Loan Collection. Photos by Simon Park.
The Arts Council Modern and Contemporary Loan Collection is the largest publicly available collection of contemporary art on the Isle of Man, including work by many of the most prolific Manx, British and international artists. Since its creation in 1993, the Arts Council Loan Collection has sought to encourage, inspire and invigorate the Manx public by providing access to this eminent array of artwork in many of the Island's schools and in a variety of public and private buildings.
In its 25th anniversary year our contemporary art loan collection remains an important asset and we are always eager to be able to include artists from the Isle of Man. We are particularly proud to add sculpture to the collection and Rob's work is a valuable part of our contemporary Manx art scene.
-Geoff Corkish MBE MLC, Chairman of the IOM Arts Council.
Photography by Simon Park
Rob Jones is a Ramsey based sculptor whose creativity has been aided by the skills that he learnt whilst working for the building industry on the Isle of Man. It was as a joiner/builder that he first realised he had a passion for art and traditional crafts. 'Drawn Steel Through the Seasons' is a collection which features abstract pieces as well as pieces that reflect shapes often found in nature, while others lean towards an industrial form. Rob collects steel from all across the Island, mainly from industrial works and sites, but also upcycles machinery and tools that have had a previous life. Working with Garden Manager, Adam Quayle, Rob's eight sculptures have been carefully positioned around the 15 acres of the historic Milntown Estate.
Rob is one of the many artists that have been successful in securing funding from the Isle of Man Arts Council. His first application in 2014 provided funding to create a series of sculptures which formed part of the Island of Culture celebrations. He was again successful in securing funding in 2016 to support the Milntown series.
I was taken by surprise when approached by Isle of Man Arts Council regarding the purchase of three of my sculptures for their loan collection. The year long exhibition in the beautiful Milntown gardens has been a great opportunity and I have had good feedback from visitors, so I'm really pleased they will be staying there for the time being. The Isle of Man Arts Council are making a serious statement here I think, in this year celebrating the island and its environment and culture, and I am really grateful that they have supported me along the way.
Q. How would you describe your work?
It's mainly abstract form and some of it is industrial in style. Some is inspired by nature some or by human form and the symmetry of the face and body.
"I don't like to give a piece such a definite title. If I give it a name I want it to be loose enough that people can read what they visualise and not what I dictate to them."
I don't like to give a piece such a definite title. If I give it a name I want it to be loose enough that people can read what they visualise and not what I dictate to them. I'm not telling them what to think, instead I'm allowing them some freedom in what they see and what they want to read into a bit of my work. Everyone sees them different and when I talk to people about them they've all got a different take on them so that works really well.
Details of the sculpture, 'Punk' photographed in the Milntown gardens in a fittingly industrial setting.
Q. Tell us about how you became a sculptor.
Sculpting has always been there it just sort of needed waking up. I think there's always been some burning desire to make. I've always been creative and a sculpture was my way to be creative. I've always mixed medium working with wood, stone and steel, whatever I get into at the time. I'm a bit of a train spotter when it comes to technique and tools. I suddenly get into something and that's all I'm interested in for a while and then I'll bounce just as quickly into another medium, another shape or form.
"Sculpting has always been there it just sort of needed waking up."
I'm a happier person when I'm a sculptor. Something seems to be missing when I'm not actually being creative. I get a bit anxious, but when I'm sculpting, though I still have anxious times, they're happier anxious times. I'm sort of running on a bit of a high and that's quite nice even when I don't necessarily know where a piece of work is going or if I will make a deadline with an exhibition or whatever, there is a certain amount of adrenaline which feels good.
Rob behind his home and studio in Ramsey.
Q. How do you compare your artwork in the outdoor setting of Milntown compared to the more minimal space of a gallery?
Both work for different reasons, I think the white gallery scenario works well with some of the simpler bits and the more geometric and less organic pieces but I think the garden setting can bring pieces of sculpture alive too. Likewise, bits of sculpture help the garden too. The more formal layout that Milntown has got with the Victorian garden and the grid like paths work well with the sculptures whether they be modern or older. I think the more abstract pieces work well in that environment.
A close up of 'Concha' by Rob Jones.
Q. How have you found being an artist on the Isle of Man to be like?
From the material aspect it is readily available on the island, only being a few miles away wherever you are. There's plenty of inspiration around here for my work. If you're an artist on the Island it stands to reason that some of your work is going to be inspired by it whether you realise it or not.
"Arts are an essential part of Manx life and the IOM Arts Council is helping to put Manx artists on the map."
As an emerging sculptor, I have found the support of the IOM Arts Council invaluable. Not only have they helped me in practical ways to develop as an artist, they have also made it possible to make sculpture more visible and accessible to the Manx public, from the formal exhibitions I've had to the pieces I've been able to put in schools and public places.
Art has been proven to assist in the wellbeing of the population and art and design influence so many aspects of our lives. If you're an aspiring artist living on the Isle of Man, don't forget the Arts Council are there to assist, and that they need the involvement of artists too. Arts are an essential part of Manx life and the IOM Arts Council is helping to put Manx artists on the map.
You can find out more about Rob Jones on his website or follow him on Facebook for updates.