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From the Hugh Lane Gallery Exhibition Archive 2011 #flashbackfriday remembers: The Golden Bough: Tim Robinson, ‘The Decision’. - Tim Robinson sadly passed away last week in London of Covid 19.
It was during my time as curator of Tulca in Galway that I first became aware of Tim Robinson. After many suggestions by locals “that you two should meet” I was invited out to Roundstone and was generously hosted by Tim and Máiréad and introduced to 'The View from The Horizon' (1997) – this was a modest publication by Tim that attempted to link the writing of the artist Timothy Drever (Tim’s birth name) with the writings of his alter ego Tim Robinson. This began a conversation that led to Tim’s 2011 exhibition entitled 'The Decision' which was included in our Golden Bough programme. Between 2008 and 2011, I invited twelve artists to respond on their own terms to the ideas gathered together by James George Frazer in a book titled 'The Golden Bough'. Collectively they were asked to question the systems and rituals developed by different societies in their attempts to understand and catalogue the meaning of their existence. They were brought into direct dialogue with the institutional and historical context of the Hugh Lane Gallery and its collection. Tim was very taken with the themes of the Golden Bough and we exchanged many ideas about what it means to be an artist, the influence of place and his decision to leave the London art scene and come west to the Aran Islands.
‘The Decision’ at the Hugh Lane Gallery, included the maps (1980-90) on display with a selection of earlier works that Tim, in retrospect, recognised as influencing his later practice. When we were preparing for the Golden Bough exhibition it had already been forty years since Tim Robinson and his wife Máiréad had moved to the Aran Islands with the aim to write a novel in a peaceful setting. That novel became 'My Time in Space' (2001) – a wonderful book that came into being after many detours. As Tim says “The islands took over, though; the novel fell to pieces and my writing narrowed into a diary of intoxication with the place”, Tim became enchanted by the landscape of the west of Ireland and he began mapping the land that surrounded his adopted home. He was the outsider looking in with fresh eyes on an ancient landscape, welcomed by the locals in his discovery of the treasures offered by the rugged terrain as well as the many stories and myths that enveloped it. These detours resulted in hand drawn maps and a non fiction trilogy of books on Connemara and a two volume study of the Aran Islands - 'Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage' was published in 1985 and 'Stones of Aran: Labyrinth' in 1995. During his early years in the West, Tim had the opportunity to explore the terrain with ease, getting to know the people along the way. He believed this would have been a difficult task to achieve in 2011 faced with barriers, fences and private land ownership.
Originally from Yorkshire, UK., Tim Robinson studied mathematics at the University of Cambridge and went on to teach it in Istanbul for three years. In the 1960's he moved to Vienna to begin a career as a visual artist. As he recounts influenced by the city’s distressing memories, most of the work he produced there was morbid and apocalyptic apart from his brush drawings 'Winged Victories I – VIII’ (c.1963) which featured in the exhibition. These wistful works on paper, under the name Timothy Drever, are based on the statue Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Louvre, which Robinson noted represent birds of good omen. A series of works incorporating wooden painted doweling rods created in London in 1972, were displayed in arrangements of scattered and stacked piles. These works later suggested to Robinson, while he was immersed in the imagery of mapping, measuring rods for dreams.
In these early works reflecting upon the many tenuous and indefinite forces that converge to produce our fates, Tim created an iridescent installation out of the threads of his life’s journey, suggesting that even by moving from city to island, from centre to periphery, from the visual to the written, - “one cannot transcend one’s habitual and limited creative means” – a concept that Tim beautifully presented in ‘The Decision’ at Hugh Lane Gallery.
Tim Robinson (1932-2020) began his career as an artist with an exhibition at the Galerie Fuchs, Vienna and later showed at Signals Gallery and the Lisson Gallery in London. His writings included the critically acclaimed two-volume study, ‘Stones of Aran’ (1986-89), and a trilogy on Connemara (2006-2011) and won two Irish Book Awards: the 2007 Argosy Irish Non-Fiction Book of the Year and the 2011 International Education Services Best Irish-Published Book of the Year. These works, as noted by Fintan O’Toole: “...will stand as timeless monuments to a genius who combined the linguistic brilliance of a poet with the precision of the mathematician he once was.”
Michael Dempsey, Head of Exhibitions
1 https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/fintan-o-toole-on-tim-robinson-one-of-the-greatest-writers-of-lands-1.4 220220 06.04.2020
For more information please visit http://www.hughlane.ie/past/414-the-golden-bough-tim-robinson
A film screening of 'Tim Robinson: Connemara' (Dir. Pat Collins, Harvest Films, 2011, 57 mins) took place at the Hugh Lane Gallery on 20 November 2011 and is available here to purchase.