Located in the bright, open rooms of the ICA’s Upper Gallery, The Yes No Quality of Dreams exhibition shows some of the later paintings of artist and poet David Robilliard. The exhibition, named after one of the paintings on display, shows work produced in the final years preceding his death in 1988 from AIDS related illness at just 36-years-old. Given the context, it would be easy to presume the exhibition would be darkly wallowing, however, what shines through most is the sense of life and personality that speaks through the paintings. The work of Robilliard focuses more often on the amusing minutiae of a very personal existence, rather than overbearing themes.
The crisp, white canvases, which display a combination of hand-lettered typography and simple line drawings, bring to mind the work of today’s David Shrigley. Although, Robilliard’s work presents a more vibrant, autobiographical take on the faux-naïve style than Shrigley’s comic strip-style work.
The typography incorporated into paintings in The Yes No Quality of Dreams was lifted from Robilliard‘s poetry, sometimes relating directly to the imagery, sometimes just complimenting the type in parallel. Lines such as ‘A room full of hungry looks’, and ‘Instant husbands come in packets’, read like the authentic Sunday morning hangover.
There is a sense of foreboding creeping into the paintings with references to safe sex perhaps hinting at the AIDS crisis. Though more striking in the paintings is the lighter, comedic tone that predominantly draws from a unique vision of London’s underground gay scene in the late ’80s.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the ICA has released a collection of Robilliard‘s poetry under the same title. Gilbert and George, who viewed Robilliard as a close personal friend and collaborator, have also previously published collections of his poetry.
The Yes No Quality of Dreams runs at the ICA until June 15th, entrance into the exhibition is with the ICA Day Membership for £1.