RobRoy Chalmer’s Swarm

RobRoy Chalmers

by Rasmus Rasmussen on September 28, 2010

RobRoy Chalmers and I met on an overcast day in West Seattle, where we both live. We know some of the same people and follow each other in Twitter, but up until that day we had never met in person.

Originally from New York, Chalmers and his wife moved back and forth between the two coasts before finally settling in Seattle. Whether all this moving around has influenced his art, I couldn’t say, but his ongoing art project – the Sporozoan Swarm – certainly has an element of both travel and fragmentation. Here is what RobRoy had to tell me about his work.

AP: You like to work with paper. Where does this fascination come from? What is it about working with and even collecting paper that appeals to you?

RRC: Paper is solid, textural and delicate all at the same time. For me it is the beginning of all art that I make. I think my fascination comes from printmaking. I love the Intaglio print. The act of incising lines in the metal and then pressing the damp paper onto the surface is calming and exciting. Paper feels good in my hands.

AP: Your on-going project is called the Sporozoan Swarm. What is it about this piece that keeps you interested? What is the fundamental idea that makes it so important to you as an artist?

RRC: The Sporozoan Swarm was born out of necessity. When I came back to Seattle in 2008 it was right at the moment of the big bubble burst. My wife and I still owned a house in Massachusetts and we were stuck in a tiny little apartment. I had no place to work. I was walking by a small shoe boutique one day and saw a blank wall and thought how about 1000 tiny drawings? I asked the shop owner and she was interested in seeing the out come so I went home and proceeded to tear up a portfolio full of proofs and old prints.

It is this necessity that that drives me and keeps me interested. The Swarm is also very accessible as shown by how many places it has ended up. It has an appeal that can be simply superficial without requiring the viewer to become involved but has the strength of sensibility to hold the more interested viewer. It is also a perfect conduit into the rest of my work, which tends to be less immediately visually accessible.

This blog post best describes why I feel this piece this needs to grow and why I must to continue to evolve with it. [Editor's note: Check the video embedded in the sidebar of this post too, for more about the Swarm]

I truly believe art makes the world a more pleasant place to live and can change the sentiment of society. Artists must bring their voices to the fore front of society without allowing that voice being compromised by the pressures of mass media and or the apathetic public. I do not believe art should beat people over the head with it point. Please don’t insult my intelligence or turn me away with your one liners. The Swarm reaches across all societal boundaries. I have had conversations a greater variety of our culture about it than any other work I have made and it is because of that that I feel the piece needs to continue.

AP: Each individual piece of The Swarm is a drawing onto itself. Does each element have its own story? What goes into these little pieces, and how do they come together when you’re creating part of The Swarm?

RRC: The Swarm started out that way. I was concerned with each individual piece being its own drawing. That does not concern me so much any more. Since all of the pieces are torn up Intaglio and lithographic prints that I made I feel that my hand is deeply involved with the singles that make up the whole. I do not need to add more to fully realize the imagery. The little drawings that do find their way to the paper are visual delicacies to be found by an investigative viewer.

When I first started out The Swarm included many complete prints. This is no longer the case. The pieces are torn smaller now and I am using these tiny pieces to draw with. I want to create active visual spaces with thin lines and clusters. The clusters revolve around pieces with drawn images and the lines use pieces with no drawing and use a large amount of negative space. The viewers eye will “connect the dots” to see the images which are laid out before them.

AP: Besides art, you have a day-job and a family. How do you find time to work on your art? How do you prioritize it? Do you have a schedule or do you only work when inspired?

RRC: My schedule is frantic to say the least. One of the reasons The Swarm has been so good for me is that I can do it with a limited amount of space, which is what I have right now.

I make time to make art. Most of the work I am making now has been conceptually finished for years and I am just in the process of what I call basket weaving. The idea for The Swarm dates back to early 2000 for me. I have been kicking it around and figuring it out for years so now all I need to do is the easy part: construct it.

I spend a fair amount of time riding my bike. This time alone allows me to think about what is coming next and to plan my schedule of time in the studio.

AP: Tell us a bit about the road you are on now. What led up to taking on The Swarm and where might The Swarm take you?

RRC: The road I am on is winding and up and down with many tributaries flowing off of it. If I have learned anything in my life it is that I can take nothing for granted and I just have to forge ahead no matter what comes at me. I believe Chaos plays a huge role in all our lives, that being said I will say to you I have no clue where The Swarm will take me. I know this though, I will fight the Chaos to my best ability to get to the place I want to be, which is an artist who spends his days making art.

If you’re interested in getting to know RobRoy a little better, check out his website and follow him on Twitter!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Diane October 1, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Fascinating guy. I love the idea of taking old art and using it to ‘grow’ something new. Many of us tend to think that our old art isn’t good or useful any more because we were not as skilled when we did it. This proves that theory wrong. Old work can be a foundation for something bigger :) The Swarm must be pretty amazing up close.


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