‘to step beyond oneself’ – Tim Robinson, RIP

I was sad to learn last week of the death of the writer Tim Robinson (1935–2020), who is best known as a critically acclaimed writer of the Irish landscape, in particular for his Connemara Trilogy: Listening to the Wind (2006), The Last Pool of Darkness (2008) and A Little Gaelic Kingdom (2011).

I’d been privileged to see Robinson reading in 1997, at the launch in Hanbury Street just off Brick Lane, London, of his book The View From the Horizon, published by Coracle.

The View From the Horizon was

a first attempt to link the work of the artist Timothy Drever with the writings of his alter ego Tim Robinson.

Background note: As Timothy Drever, Robinson had exhibited to some acclaim in the early 1970s at the Lisson Gallery among others. Before my (gallery-going) time, then, but I find it really interesting that even in 1997 – twenty-five years after ‘Drever’ had quit the London artworld for his ‘particular little crossroads of reality’ in Ireland – it was still ‘Tim Robinson’ that was seen as the alter ego, when by the time of his death last week, Robinson was by far the better-known figure.

Discussing this personal and professional rupture in the book’s introduction, Robinson writes

Whereas I used to be dismayed by the breakage and loss caused by that sudden change in habit and habitat, nowadays it is the unchipped good order in which my little store of imagery accompanied me on the jolting journey from city to island that makes me wonder if it is ever possible to step beyond oneself.

Since that event on Hanbury Street in 1997, The View From the Horizon has been an often-noted presence on my shelf. The spine stands out among other titles, because its dust-wrapper (comprising a single, wrap-around photograph of some Drever constructions from 1972) is so visually distinctive. It made it easy to locate the book again now, so that I could re-read it these 23 years later. And it’s wonderful stuff – look!

Tim Robinson, The View From The Horizon (detail)

Strangely, or perhaps not, I’d already been thinking about Robinson earlier that week. While sorting through some old papers, I’d come across photocopies of a short article of mine for the then Artists’ Newsletter – now AN – from that same year, which mentions Robinson’s reading alongside a number of other books/works by artists including Ian Hamilton Finlay, Gordana Stanišić, and the historian or historical geographer John Field.

I did a quick scan of the article on my phone, and reproduce it here (with apologies for the blurriness of the photocopy).

Tony White, ‘Taking an idea for a walk’, AN, August 1977

Incidentally, it took me a while, but I finally found and bought a copy of John Field’s English Field Names: A Dictionary last year. I can’t quite believe that it took so long, but there you go. And it really is a exceptional piece of work. I’m not sure how I managed without it.

Here’s a little taster – see what I mean?


Buy Tim Robinson The View From The Horizon on Abebooks

Buy Ian Hamilton Finlay Grains of Salt: fourteen one word poems with linocuts by Jo Hinks

Buy John Field, English Field Names: A Dictionary on Abebooks

Buy The Fountain in the Forest from Hive Books

The Fountain in the Forest was a Guardian ‘Book of the Day’ – read Sukhdev Sandhu’s review

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