Michael Robb

The island arts community has lost one of its oldest and most prominent members with the death of Michael Robb. His leonine presence will be missed.

American by birth and Canadian by choice, Michael remained a keen critic and observer of politics and retained a lifelong interest in military history, after his own National Guard service in Kansas. But it was the artist in him that grew furthest, and he became a teacher and practitioner of the fine arts.  A move to Ontario also made him a homesteader and builder, avocations he followed again when first Gabriola and then Salt Spring called him to the west coast.

But it was as an artist that most of us knew Michael. By the time he arrived on Salt Spring, he well primed to become the essential island artist. His restless energy made him a glass blower, painter and sculptor in metal. His partnership of nearly forty years with Donna Johnstone, made him a family man, engaging host, and father to Aja, now well launched on her own creative career, and a lovely friend to Michael in the last years of his life.

Michael’s sense of irony and his independence made his artist’s voice distinct. He was both unpretentious about his art and fiercely declarative. There was no point criticizing or praising his work. He knew what he wanted. And that, for most of us, a little younger than Michael, included a slight time shift. His work was rooted in a kind of 1950’s art-deco style. His metal sculpture contained humour, made all the more stark for its reality — we did say irony, didn’t we. Nor did Michael hide is flame; he was quick to praise and encourage work that he saw as valuable.

If island arts has many centres, Michael was one of them. He organized a loose collection of over a hundred artists for critiques and wine, and his critical voice was sought and respected. He actively encouraged the younger artists, who valued his attention. He had a masculine way of honouring friendship, and that, for many of us, will endure as his legacy.

Michael left us after a long illness, and a grace year during which he painted to the end. His planned show at the Fault Line Gallery was completed before his death, and is a collaboration with photographer Michael Wall, who documented Michael at work, in his own style. The show opens Friday January 11, 2019 at 5.

The lion is at rest.

– David Borrowman

2019-01-09T17:19:38+00:00Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments