Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bridge:  a literal or figurative structure, which, in a manner of speaking, one might say is neither here nor there…

Regent College, Vancouver, BC

The College is currently in the planning stages of developing a mixed-use building on the southern half of its grounds.  Having been invited to propose a few ideas for the new courtyard, I found this exhibit coalescing in a series of conversational what-ifs, between myself and gallery curator Dal Schindell. 

It might be relevant to know that, in one respect, this exhibit had its inception twenty years ago when Dal became the first bona fide grownup, outside my mother and a few art teachers, to take these artistic aspirations seriously, when he offered me my very first show here at the Lookout Gallery. 

That first exhibit founded ideas that are still lurking in the work today; themes around the suspension of the figure in architectural/existential space, precarious deferrals of the figure’s relationship to ground, and various unravelings of the historical and heroic syntax of this anachronistic idiom.  All these themes were present in embryo in that first show, and seemed still worthy of consideration as we came to thinking out loud about what to propose for the new courtyard at Regent. 

As the existing flow of pedestrian traffic at UBC would have it, this courtyard would be a unique link between “secular” and “spiritual” cultures -a standing bridge between the cloister*and the campus.  If this is deemed relevant, the design and content of this space will be sure to embody it.  Whatever the choice, the space must have a work that encodes some breadth of human truth that can span the gap, inviting those of any persuasion to consider that herein there may be signified some matters of consequence.

So here are some images submitted for consideration.  Images of mythic horses which, under our always self-conscious gaze, are evocations of the binding of nature and culture.  Images of standing and balancing figures; solitary in their poise and collective in their petition.   Images of the element of water that flows around us and within us, like time, and like life.

(* with apologies – here a loosely fitting term, but of an ever-present danger)

David Robinson, March, 2012


Bridge Mix:



The courtyard is a cultural perimeter, an intentional architectural chasm, across which we might gain perspective enough to regard and restore ourselves as relational beings.  I myself can’t stand in your average atrium without feeling the urge to hail and throw a grappling-line over to my fellow beings on the other side. 


Mind gap in the mind.

Whatever chasm one intends to bridge, be it time, or space, or some other desire, our recurrent use of bridge as metaphor makes engineers of us all.  How, we perennially ask, and by what manner of speaking, might we best contrive to get there from here



I knew a young architect who once designed a beautiful tectonic treatise based on George Stubbs’ studies on equine anatomy.  The resulting design took the form of a bridge.  This horse/bridge design was a perfect mimetic circle of art and life:  the form of some iron span had reminded him of the shape of a horse; the beauty of the horse, in turn, inspired him to design a bridge. 

This is a clue as to why artists sometimes prefer to avoid explaining where their ideas come from…



Our bodily frame is a taut orchestration of members in tension and compression; our upper limbs hang from the spine by sinews like the fanning cables of the Golden Gate.  The body, then, as suspension-bridge, spanning the gap between the self and the cosmos.



Yeats imparts that the centre cannot hold…

I can’t really tell from here.  For all I know the centre is doing just fine.

I, most certainly, cannot hold.


Descending Equestrian

(Work In Progress)

 Here is a latecomer in these continuing adventures of horse and rider.  What I appreciate about this episode is the visual collusion [collision?] of both the identity and gaze of the characters.  Seen from the left side they appear to be of one mind; seen from the front, they appear to be of one vision; a compelling alliance - precarious footing notwithstanding…


Dead Reckoning

(also ded (for deduced),  noun:  1). Navigation without the aid of celestial observations.  2). An estimate based on little or no information.

Inspired by aero/nautical forms and their attendant navigational purposes, this work articulates a striving human imperative: the thrust and pull of free will encountering the real. 
The rower is an image of the will; poised and replete with focus and energy, needing only the means to discern in what direction this deeply felt purpose may lie.


Equestrian (1991)

I never know what to say when I am told that to look upon these bonds is to see only bondage.


Xi’an, Shaanxi, China

The image of eight running horses is said to connote “Good Fortune and Success”.  

It was recently my good fortune to be asked to design this work for a new sculpture garden in Lintong, China.  The proposed site rests in the shadow of Li Mountain –variously translated as “Black Steed”, or “Beautiful Horse” Mountain.

The work’s water-as-time metaphor, by flowing from churning fountain to quiet reflecting pool and then back again, evokes a narrative.  An equine cast of characters dramatize a slow turning from still waters of the past, to the torrent of the present, to the continual leap-of-faith that is our encounter with futurity.