Robin Charles ReynoldsBack to artists
The question I’m most often asked is how long did it take you to do that? So whatever people think of my pictures, nobody doubts that there’s a lot of work behind them.
So what do I want people to think about them?
I want to offer something strange. I want to hang something that works from across the room – but that also promises more. I want to draw people in, so that they explore between the lines and find the fun in the detail.
I’ve been described as a storyteller in pictures, and that, to an extent, squares with my background. Born in 1952, I was employed in journalism for 30 years, working on newspapers in my native Zimbabwe and later the Home Counties, before ending up at the BBC. Somewhat accidentally, my final role at the BBC was custodian of the corporation’s art and history collections.
There are stories in my earlier drawings, although they are somewhat random. Why an old woman attacked the men trying to save the toppling tower is not explained. And I had forgotten, until somebody pointed it out to me recently, that I had a man peeing on survivors as they crawled from the ruins of an earthquake.
When I started drawing, I was intrigued by buildings. Architecture not-quite-of-this-world appealed to me, and fantasy cityscapes and disasters were something of a theme. But they developed without forethought.
As I get older, I put more and more thought into my pictures. In 2014 I studied Visscher’s 1616 engraving of London and started work on an updated view of the city 400 years on, through the same weird lens. I completed it in time for the 400th anniversary of Visscher’s original. But since it was also of William Shakespeare’s death, I turned it into a puzzle, concealing, in the celestial decorations and on the city streets, visual references to 43 plays and poetic works.
The follow-up was an extremely ambitious partnership with my brother Simon and the Historic New Orleans Collection. The result, an interactive history of the city, featured in its tricentennial exhibition in 2019.