... THE FITZWILLIAM MUSEUM SEEN BY ROBIN STEMP
The Fitzwilliam Museum facade is my muse, which I photograph on an almost daily basis. Obsessive? Absolutely. The light changes minute by minute in the early morning and in summer, I cycle down to take a look at it before breakfast. My excuse - if one is needed - is that the pictures sell well and can be exhibited. But even if I did nothing with them, I would still want to record the way the light changes colour on the stone pillars, the shadows moving across the back wall. The building faces East and so it has to be caught in the early morning.
There is little space around it, and so it has to be seen, close up, eyeball to eyeball. In any other city, the Fitzwilliam Museum would be presented as a temple of the arts, to be seen at a distance, from the end of a long street. But not in Cambridge, where buildings of world importance are shoe horned into corners and so viewed from whichever angle is available.
When the light is flat and blankly white, the stone has an ethereal opacity and in the evening, the ceiling under the portico is illuminated, and this gives a low, husky gold light, against the deep city blue of the night. In October, when the low sun is still quite strong, it becomes a shining orange object, spinning in light, the shadows deep purple or indigo. Over the last few years, the light has changed from soft East Anglian wash to something sharper and more aggressive. Is this significant? Are we governed by the weather? Is life today harsher, more polarised? Or is it because I now use a digital camera, with a sharper focus?
Robin Stemp (b. 1944)
Born into a distinguished but eccentric family in 1944, Robin Stemp was known for trouble rather than trophies at school. She then trained as a dress designer, together with Caroline Yorke set up her own label and successfully traded ‘Robin Yorke’ designs to Harrods in London and Bloomingdales in New York. Having married and started a family, Stemp advised museums in Lincolnshire on textiles and then moved to Cambridgeshire where she found her niche: art criticism, painting and photography.
A regular contributor to Arts Review and The Artist from 1983 to 2000, Stemp has been a prize winner in the BP Arts Journalism Award and is a member of the International Association of Art Critics. Her paintings have featured in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and can be found in public and private collections in Britain and abroad. Equally, her photographs have featured in exhibitions in Britain and abroad and can be found in private collections worldwide. Indeed, having first been given a bicycle when she was six and a camera when she was eight, Stemp now enjoys the combination of slow transport and quick recording more than ever!
Robin Stemp lives with her family in Cambridge.