David Robilliard

Text by
Danny Calvi
Photography by
Paul Knight

On Wednesday, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London will show twelve paintings by the late punk poet David Robilliard. Except for a couple tiny gallery shows, it’s been almost two decades since the witty poet and painter’s graphic, word-based canvases have been exhibited in a major museum.

David Robilliard’s first solo show of crude drawings in 1984 was also the setting for the publication of his first book of poems by friends and patrons, Gilbert & George. They knew him as ‘…the sweetest, kindest, most infuriating, artistic, foul-mouthed, witty, sexy, charming, handsome, thoughtful, unhappy, loving and friendly person we ever met’. It was David who recruited all those gorgeous lads who appeared in the artist duo’s early eighties work.

Back when the dungeon fetish depot Expectations was the busiest shop around now-trendy Shoreditch, David shared a cheap studio space with Andrew Heard — it was just a short walk to the London Apprentice, a local leather bar — and there he produced eight volumes of poetry, a few hundred drawings, and sixty or so paintings. The naive paintings, which are totally informed by his poetry, seem to articulate a kind of bitchy common sense.

Even when Robilliard found out he was HIV-positive, he made light of his condition, introducing himself as ‘David Robilliaids’. Where his poems had previously alluded to a fun-loving series of crushes, they now took on a more ironic and cryptic tone. David died of at the age of thirty-six.

‘David Robilliard: The Yes No Quality of Dreams’ opens 16 April and runs through 15 June 2014 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. More info over here.

Published on 14 April 2014