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Waterfront Festival

Under Cover Artist: Robert Lever

13 December 18 interview: LeftLion

We caught up with this month’s cover and poster artist, Robert Lever...

You’re not from round these parts. What do you reckon to the city?
Nottingham has a unique identity and positive similarities to Manchester – where I’m originally from – in that it’s got a lot of energy, a diverse culture, an impressive industrial heritage and architecture, great nightlife, friendly people and a great sense of humour. It’s a real home from home. I also love that it’s a literary city. 

Tell us a bit about this issue’s cover and poster art...
The original is oil paint on canvas. I’ve done paintings of other places in a similar style and, in retrospect, I think it’s about the city as a system, where everything is connected. The architecture, people, history, and culture all interact to create a unique identity.

Tell us about some of the characters you’ve featured…
I wanted to include people from present and past. I don’t know the Cockle Man or Patty Dumplin personally, but they were recommended to me as local celebs who do a lot of good. There’s also the internationally famous people like Torvill and Dean and Sheku Kanneh Mason, as well as a random Notts County fan next to Cloughie, so both County and Forest are represented. I’m a fan of Sleaford Mods, so they were definitely in.

How does this piece relate to your wider work?
Systems theory is something I’ve been obsessed with ever since completing a systems diploma with the OU a few years ago. Incidentally, I did the residential week at Nottingham University. In a nutshell, any system, such as a city, should be “greater than the sum of its parts” and, ideally, every component should contribute and benefit in a balanced way. This systems thing is appearing more and more in my art work.

Where’s your favourite place in Nottingham to visit?
I don’t think I can narrow it down to one place, but I like to mill around the town centre, often in Hockley. Being an artist can be fairly solitary and static, so a busy town centre helps balance the old karma.

If we were a fly on the wall when you’re creating, what would we find?
Usually me with my head in my hands thinking that the current piece of work is beyond recovery.

Tell us something else you do when nobody’s looking…
I talk to myself. I even have quite heated arguments.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Beer, curry, sun, intellectual stimulation, time with friends and family. Not necessarily in that order, or all at the same time.

What plans do you have for the future?
I’ve considered myself an aspiring artist for some time, even though I had a day job in the NHS. However, I’m about to formally become a full-time starving artist.

Anything else you wanted to say?
Thank you to everyone in Nottingham for being so welcoming. This city is a great place to be.

Robert Lever website

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