Ironside, Robin - Man collapsing on a public flight of steps
Type of Spiritual Experience
Robin Ironside, painter and writer, 1912-1965 by Virginia Ironside
The subjects of Robin’s pictures were nearly all totally imaginary, usually with literary, scholarly or classical themes. In some there are hidden allusions which are neither evident nor easily interpretable to any onlooker but a classical scholar.
In Man collapsing on a public flight of steps, the background buildings are surrounded by slogans in broken neon lights. ‘Nigro Notanda’ reads one. ‘Manibus Date Lilia Plenis’ reads another; and ‘Animula Vagula Blandula’, all fragmentary Latin quotations relevant to the scene.
Robin’s figures are (to use his own expression) “under the spell of some charming but vaguely dreaded hallucination,” and the titles of his pictures are as mysterious and evocative as the paintings themselves.
A picture to prove that the Greeks only painted with three Colours, Street Entertainer playing Threatening Music to a Cinema Queue, Wounded Man in bed-sitting room , Birth of a Dolphin, Crowd waiting for a portent, The traumatic barricade, Famous Statues visiting a Museum of People, The Somnambulist , A Hermit Praying at the End of the World.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John showed Robin himself dying on his iron bed in Clarendon Street, an Aladdin heater by his side and, at the corners of the bed, four angels turning away to hide their eyes.
His pictures are like important dreams seasoned with black jokes; even his most romantic works are threaded through with threat and destruction, a wounded deer hidden in the trees of a sylvan scene, a scorpion nestling in the corner of a picture of two nymphs.