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With the first day of half-decent (ish) weather this year, I’ve come out for a wander.
Tapping this out in the beer garden of a pub in Waterloo, I have some observations:
Most people are just trying to make their way in the world.
This shouldn’t be a revelation, but if you read the Daily Mail you might be under quite the opposite impression. The majority of people have an amiable, good-natured default, and it’s going about their business, trying to enjoying whatever’s going on around them.
Most people wake up with a plan.
Or at least the vague notion of what what they need to do next. Whether you’re bang on top of your to-do list, or rudderless and without direction, most people know what they should be doing, even if they’re not doing it.
Every last one of us is biased towards overestimating our ability to do things we don’t fully understand.
This explains some of my last observation. Even with limited experience, most of us have some idea of how to get things done. Or at least believe we have.
Lord, give me the confidence of middle-aged sports fans proclaiming their team definitely would have won had the manager benched player X at half time and brought on player Y in their place.
Or even the well meaning art fan declaring they “could probably paint that”, if you gave them a chance.
Which, neatly, brings me to artist Ed Robinson.
In my however many years of working with Ed, I don’t think I encountered a single person who:
1. Wasn't stopped dead in their tracks by his paintings.
2. Had the first clue where to start painting something similar, let alone anything with absolute fidelity of tone and atmosphere to their subject.
There was never any overestimation of personal ability. No admirable-but-misguided plans to visit an art shop and pick up a paintbrush.
You’d see the needle skip off it's groove as people were confronted by someone who could clearly, unquestionably, create something neither they, nor anyone else, could, and all they had to do was enjoy it.
I imagine it’s like watching LeBron James dominate the NBA, or Paul McCartney in that Beatles documentary.
(Three Beatles on a white-knuckle ride as their friend Paul, fortified and iron-clad by a hot-streak for the ages, turns every idea glancing across his keyboard into gold. Even Mr Yoko Ono, John Lennon, a man not unaccustomed to turning out bangers himself, had to pipe down and enjoy the ride.)
And the truth is, it’s an entirely analogous comparison.
Most people look at a tube of paint and understand that, with enough time and training, they could turn it into something resembling a painting.
Nobody feels the same way about the Sunday Times Weekend Supplement.
Except Ed Robinson.
Ed was minding his own business as a graphic designer in Soho in the 1960s, trying to paint his digs around W1D when the idea struck him.
Mixed media. As naturally as that. It seemed obvious, in a way that would absolutely not seem obvious to the rest of us, artists and civilians alike.
Ed’s paint and brushes weren’t going to do the job in the same way chopped up print media would - so he changed tack.
Because Ed Robinson saw his urban landscapes as obvious and inevitable, and the only reason they didn't already exist was simple: he hadn't painted them yet.
I think people - who aren't daft - impute that cosmic inevitability from Ed’s work, as easily and naturally as Ed's style of painting arrived in his mind.
I don’t look at the label from a tin of soup and see the outside edge of festival hall. But Ed Robinson does.
I don’t keep the receipt from a cup of coffee because I've seen the shingle from a Thames foreshore in it. And I'll bet nobody else does either. But Ed Robinson absolutely does.
Because Ed has made his own that rarest, most other-worldly echelon of artistic endeavour, where his works feel completely inevitable, and yet utterly impossible to anyone who’s name isn’t Ed Robinson: Mixed Media Artist.
All the rest of us can do is agree:
Ed Robinson does things we can’t, and is so impossibly good at doing them, we don’t try and pretend otherwise.
We just get on and enjoy them.
- Alex 🎨✌️