We were hosted last month by Vans at their House of Vans closing party in Guangzhou. It was the end of a whirlwind tour across Asia, which featured stops in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Seoul, as well as a dizzying number of artist collaborations. In a sea of achingly hip skate-inspired outfits, this one stood out in its understated chic:
Robin Eisenberg, Artist
Venue: Guangzhou, China
On her outfit: The shirt is a Vans shirt that I really like, I don’t wear red really often, but I wanted to wear something that would make me stand out a little bit when I stood on stage. These jeans, I actually bought them in Guangzhou! I really liked them because there’s a poem on them, which I thought was so cool:
On why she likes to place her designs on shoes: These shoes are a pair I designed with Vans when we were making some customs:
Shoes are wearable in a way that’s kind of subtle, they are universal and everyone can wear them, which is not always the case with things like clothes and shirts, which can have different cuts. I like the idea of having art on my shoes, and then my shoes can (literally) take me places. With Vans shoes, I feel like they are built for having art on them because they are like canvases in themselves.
On her earrings:
These are from Brooklyn, and they’re hands because I like the idea of body parts being on different, or unexpected places on the body. Even in my own art, I like to do things like place mouths where nipples should be.
On her tattoos: They are kind of random. I have one of Canis Major, which is my favourite constellation because both mine and my sister’s favourite stars are within it.
This one is actually a cover-up of a different tattoo and it’s just a kind of space-y image:
The original tattoo was a piece that another artist made, and when I was really young I had it tattooed. But then I found out that the artist has a policy that she doesn’t like it when other people get tattoos of her work. When I told her, she was really upset and I felt very bad about it. For a long time, I had the tattoo, but then I thought – because of her policy- that I really shouldn’t have it! Everyone has their own preferences about these things and I wanted to respect hers.
On people getting tattoos of her work: I think it’s awesome and I don’t really have a problem with it.
On placing body parts in unusual places: I like creating art where you think you understand what you’re looking at, but then something surprises you or makes you feel uneasy, but also familiar. In putting body parts in unexpected places, it’s my way of drawing that makes people feel complicated emotions. Otherwise (things) might just be too simple, like the works are attractive, and that’s it. I like making things a little different and dangerous, like a mix of the conventional with the weird and disturbing:
On the use of female imagery in her work: Growing up, as an artist, I’d see art that would make me want to go home and create more art or live my life in a certain way. I myself make art that expresses what I feel – I love being on my own and celebrating independent women and women who do what they love. So, I hope that when people see my art, they feel like being the same way, and feel good about themselves.
On her drawings of alien women: When you think of aliens you sometimes think of something that’s so strange and unrecognizable, but I like the idea that maybe the aliens are thinking, doing and feeling the same things as we are.
On her travels to Asia: I’ve been to Japan twice, I used to play in a band and we went there on tour. It was literally for 30 hours or something like that – I played in the show, went to do some karaoke and then flew back out! When I was in high school I played in a jazz band and we also came to Tokyo. I’m coming to the Philippines in January, my mum’s side of the family is Filipino – it will be my first time in Manila. I’d love to come to Singapore sometime!
On the commodification of art, through collaborative projects with big brands: I think that as long as what you’re doing is always genuine and is coming from a place of wanting to share and create, then I think it’s fine. I personally try very hard not to work with brands that I don’t relate to or would not want to represent – and I’m very lucky to have that privilege. Vans, for example, I feel is very good about sticking to their roots.
I think with anything, if your reasoning behind putting your art onto projects, is to just share it with more people then that’s awesome. It’s also a way for people to show their support for you as an artist and show their appreciation- it’s a symbiotic relationship in a way.
As long as you’re staying genuine, nothing is cheapened. It’s important to stick to your roots, but also helpful to place things that are important to you, in a context where other people can discover them more easily. There are so many different avenues where people can be expressive – it doesn’t all have to be one way. For example, it’s ok for something to be empowering and sexual at the same time.
Her advice for budding artists: Don’t try to compare yourself to other artists and just try to remember that your own successes are important and special just on their own. It’s easy to compare yourself to others and doubt yourself, but you have to push past it, and don’t let anybody tell you not to draw.
(All artwork images are courtesy of the artist)