What we owe

‘Big Fire’ by Steve Lobb

Conversations weave links between and among us. When Steve Lobb spoke about his painting, ‘Big Fires’, he evoked dialogue with Altdorfer, about trees, and Bosch or Blake, about the ‘greedy bastards’ spinning on the roundabout while the forest burns. I saw William Morris in the carpet of flames and Hogarth or Gilray in the subject. Artists are always in negotiation with those who came before, those who contributed to forming them.

I also saw today’s painter shaped by and reshaping his past selves, whose traces are in his work at Greenwich Mural Workshop. The clarity of design, the joyous colour and the dissent echoing those hopeful murals that stand for a world where people work together for the common good.

We worked together 30 years ago, when I was an apprentice at GMW, and what I learned from Steve (and from Carol, Rob and Lulu) has illuminated my path, like ‘a good deed in a naughty world’. The internal conversation with all those who’ve shaped my ideas and practice has continued since. Death or absence doesn’t prevent it: in their works and in our memories, the influence of others endures. Time passes and experience gathers; I become more conscious of what I owe with age.

Steve paints, writes and performs (as Emile Sercombe) continuing a journey started many years ago. I remember him talking about the influence of Marc Chagall and Edward Burra on his painting and I see – impossibly – him in their work. Thus do the conversations and connections grow to form the unique intertextuality that makes each consciousness separate and yet not.

Time adds layers and ageing artists can, if they choose, draw on the richest of resources: the conversations of a lifetime, with their peers, with their friends and with themselves.

Beirut on Reflection (Steve Lobb)

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