Artists are a strange lot. They can be pig headed and argumentative. And some, when they are totally convinced that they are right, can be downright offensive. Hey, artists are human. And that was what appealed to me straight away about Robin Greenwood. He was always striving for excellence in his work and in his ideas. He took that logic to the limits of his premise. And he loved making his work through that premise.
I found Robin online – as many of us did – part of the wonder of the internet. Wouldn’t have ever been able to do so in real life – separated by an ocean as we were. But his writing was clear and his position unwavering. His critiques of the art of the moment could ring true. And I found some of my own thoughts mirrored in his theoretical diatribes. We were looking at the same problem from different angles. And the few times that we chatted online I’m sure he tired of my critiques, but that’s how things go. I may not have agreed with him, but I never for once dismissed his commitment or his work. Robin was real in the best possible sense.
Robin was always discussing abstraction and space – space in two dimensions and space in three dimensions. This kind of discussion was refreshing, because for a long time, all one ever read about was flatness and surface. Robin was comprehensive and clever, but I wasn’t convinced. He always seemed to be treading a thin line with his ideas of space and form. And by that I mean that the space in most all of his sculptures was never outwardly reaching. It was always bounded by the outer forms. What he was passionate about was interior space. This was also very true of his paintings – the space was bound to the surface and the sides of his canvas pulled inward by some unseen gravity event. His work always feels like it’s just on the verge of condensing into a mass – like skaters on a crowded ice rink.
Robin’s space is a Modernist Black Star.
A few years back Robin opened up some of his sculptures to different materials and new approaches to those materials. And things began to happen in the work which I thought were wonderful. He was taking a big leap, experimenting and looking for – a way forward. It was truly impressive – a fabulous late period. He also managed to bring something to these works that wasn’t explicit in his more classic Modernist sculptures – humor. He was really pushing against the gravity of his Black Star.
I do hope these sculptures are still about. (Robin would often change his mind and tear things apart.) This group of sculptures belongs in major collections and museums. They encapsulate this moment with their jerry-rigged materials and their joyful reworking of the Modern past. They are exemplary, because these sculptures are reaching for something – Else.
Thank you, Robin.
My deepest condolences go out to Robin’s family and friends and to all the artists of the Brancaster group who loved him.