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Words of Dead Poets: Image, Music, Text

written by James Merrick

Take a thing. Put that thing through a process and transform it into a different thing. This is the simplest way to describe the work of artist, musician, and writer, CJ Robinson. Like the indeterminate music of John Cage, Robinson's choices set the initial parameters, but he is not necessarily in control of the outcome. Marcel Duchamp reduced the process of making art down to the choices the artist makes and it is, Robinson believes, through the specificity of those choices that the personality of the artist is revealed.

CJ Robinson collage grid series

In collage he does this by applying grids to single or multiple images (Grid & Tile Series, Square Circle Square). The grids determine which parts of the image Robinson keeps and which he discards. Similarly in his book works, he applies a rule to an existing text, which again determines which parts of the original text he keeps (Francois Sagan SeriesBook Works). In both these areas the source is radically transformed through reduction.

CJ Robinson collage square circle square series

Other text based works use similar methods of rule application for generating texts, developed from Robinson's studies of avant-garde modernist writers and authors. These works are then further distanced from their source material by turning them into other forms, such as projections (Octavio Paz, Single Words, Left Aligned, 1957-1987), sound pieces (Francois Sagan Series), or, in the case of Paving Stones II, a graphic novel. The culmination of these studies into alternative narrative structures has resulted in Robinson's concept of the Found Narrative

CJ Robinson Paving Stones II

Often Robinson's choices are a form of structural reductionism. He is asking the question: what happens if I control all but one of the available parameters? What does that one parameter do? This is clear in his book works but can also be seen in photographic series, such as Thalatta! Thalatta!

CJ Robinson Thalatta! Thalatta! 18-11-2013 11-26 Monday

Other methods of transformation include the use of mirrors (I Am A Traveler In Both Time And Space, As Above So Below, Octavio Paz…), or projecting through layers of plastic (Octavio Paz…). All these methods are filters, distancing Robinson from authorship, and yet the work is always distinctly his.

CJ Robinson, As Above So Below, Installation, Grinlow Art Trail, 2015

Robinson's books can be bought here:

His music, as The Erratic, can be heard here:

My own conceptual writings can be bought here:


Copies of Robinson's book works are held in the collections of the Centre for Fine Print Research in Bristol, the Tate library in Tate Britain, the Baltic in Gateshead, and in University College London. They have been exhibited in the UK, US, Europe, Russia and Middle East. Robinson holds a Masters Degree in Fine Art from the University of the West of England and he is currently working to develop his studies in avant grade narrative structures into a PhD proposal.

Contact him:

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