Flow at the Glass Tank: Maria Robertson on Finding Creative Flow

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Flow at the Glass Tank, a collaboration between Modern Art Oxford and Oxford Brookes University, will present an exploration of idea generation, creativity and the notion of ‘flow’ state. The project will culminate in an exhibition featuring artworks created by people from across Oxfordshire.

Overseen by Creative Associate (Participation) Laura Purseglove, the exhibition will be co-curated by members of the volunteer team at Modern Art Oxford, demonstrating the creative collaboration underpinning the project. With the project underway, Oxford Brookes students who are members of the volunteer team have been sharing their involvement in Flow, what flow state means to them and how they find inspiration.

Here, Maria Robertson, current BA Fine Art student, shares insight into her practice and how finding flow state can inspire her creatively.

Maria Robertson is a Fine Art Student at Oxford Brookes University (Year 3). She juggles her part-time studies with a career as a freelance digital designer and voluntary work for Modern Art Oxford.

As an artist, her work is influenced by place and environment, articulating an immediate felt response to surroundings via sound, video, sculpture and drawing. This approach extends to the use of materials from place, using found items as an intermediary for mark making and as inspiration for her sculptural work.

Key themes to her work are belonging, place and identity. Her experience of growing up in the UK, and living in Australia brings a cross cultural dialogue to her work, as she explores how we identify with our surroundings and ‘home’. She takes an interrogative approach to place and materials, re-interpreting and re-presenting objects and experiences to create a new reflective narrative. This approach exposes, form, materiality, provenance and place.

Maria volunteers at Modern Art Oxford as an invigilator in the gallery, and as part of the Digital Strategy team. She is currently involved in a curatorial project between Modern Art Oxford and Oxford Brookes University called ‘Flow', and is contributing to ‘Breathworks’ an upcoming digital research project with Modern Art Oxford.

My Flow State

My process as an artist often begins by walking, this is where I reach my ‘Flow’ state. My body is in motion, and my mind can then wander freely between ideas and experiences. I feel myself become observant and in the moment, experiencing what is around me more acutely. Sights, sounds, smells and atmosphere influence me, and I respond instinctively to my environment. I notice small details that might otherwise have passed me by, and photograph, film or draw in response to them. Occasionally I pick something up which I use later for inspiration, a broken egg shell, a rock, a piece of grass. An example of this process is evident in this short project created for ‘Breathworks’.

Barley Movie – (20 secs)

During the recent ‘lockdown’ I have been exploring my local area on foot, finding new pathways across fields and meadows. On one occasion, I followed a single track between two fields and observed a ripening barley field to my left. I was captivated by the undulating waves of movement created by the wind, and seized the moment to make a short 20 second film. I had been thinking about ‘Breathworks’ and this gentle movement was like watching natures breath around me. As I watched this movement, I became aware of the breath in my own body and its continuous relationship with nature. I returned home with footage which I slowed to exaggerate this movement. I added a short ambient music clip which I slowed down also. This captured the ‘feeling’ I had experienced looking at the wind ripple across the field, and the symbiotic awareness of my own breath.

“In contrast to the apparently unlimited, global character of the technologically mediated world, the sensuous world – the world of our direct unmediated interactions is always local. The sensuous world is the ground on which we walk, the air we breathe.” (Abram, 2012, The Spell of the Sensuous) Other Work

Drawing a Breath

As part of my creative exploration for ‘Breathworks’ this drawing evolved from the idea of creating a simple visual record of breathing. I took some black Indian Ink, dropped it onto a pure white notebook page with an eye dropper. Just three drops, one on top of the other, then blew over the surface with three exhalations. As the ink began to soak into the paper, the rivulets became narrower with each exhale. I enjoyed the element of chance involved in the outcome of this drawing, and seeing the invisible breath become present in the physical world.

Drawing a Breath, Ink and paper
Figure 1 - Drawing a Breath, Ink and paper


Before I started at my degree studies, I attended evening classes at Oxford Brookes and the Mill Arts Centre, Banbury. This drawing was made after a walk by the river in Banbury, drawing on the memory of the walk and sensations along the way. It expresses the movement, shape and texture of the walk as I experienced it, like a visual memory.

Find out more about Flow at the Glass Tank.

River Walk, Pen, Ink and Watercolour
Figure 2 - River Walk, Pen, Ink and Watercolour