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Eighty-year-old artist and East Ham school teacher exhibits work at Mile End Pavilion

Artist Melvyn Robinson shows off his famous piece, Musicians divided 1 and 2 at the Mile End Art Pavillion. Artist Melvyn Robinson shows off his famous piece, Musicians divided 1 and 2 at the Mile End Art Pavillion.

Friday, July 12, 2013
10:40 AM

The changing face of the people and buildings in East London are captured in canvasses by an 80-year-old artist.

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Melvyn Robinson in front of: Muscians Divided 1 and 2Melvyn Robinson in front of: Muscians Divided 1 and 2

Melvyn Robinson, who will become an octogenarian, on Saturday works with geometric structures to reflect how the environment around him has developed.

Nearly a hundred works of arts, many of them never shown before, make up the first large scale exhibition of his work at the Mile End Art Pavilion to coincide with his 80th Birthday. The exhibition ends this Sunday.

Most of the paintings explore the make up of structures by using a series of geometric shapes.

But others try to capture the “typical” people and buildings around Hackney where he lives.

Melvyn Robinson in front of:  Hackney Flats 2Melvyn Robinson in front of: Hackney Flats 2

One of them, which uses octagon shapes to make up the painting, is entitled Hackney Flats and was inspired by buildings in a side street to Well Street.

Melvyn explained: “It has typical Hackney people and buildings that echo East London architecture.

“In the buildings there are a man and a wife of different ethnic backgrounds having a cup of tea while an undesirable person wearing a hoot is sneaking past.

“There are also two ladies, again from different ethnic backgrounds, having a chat over the washing while a hooligan is climbing across another balcony.”

Melvyn Robinson in front of: Hackney Flats 2Melvyn Robinson in front of: Hackney Flats 2

Melvyn who came to East London 40 years ago says he has seen “tremendous” improvements in the area.

He said: “It’s amazing, I remember when Hackney was regarded as an undesirable area of London. Since then there has been a tremendous uplift in the area, its architecture and people.

On the whole Melvyn feels the changes have been positive. But said: “I would just hope that the housing problems that young people have are addressed and that a lot more help was given with getting a mortgage.”

Born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, Melvyn’s says it was after winning an arts prize at school that he decided to go to arts college. He says his father, who was a miner and his mother, who were a seamstress were supportive of his career choice. Although Melvyn says that his father once said that if he had been an engineer he might have been able to understand.

It was a job advertised in the Docklands for an arts teacher at East Ham Boys Grammar School that first brought Melvyn to London.

After starting out as what he describes as a “Sunday artist” he was later able to make a living from his works and now has a studio in Bow while living in Hackney.

His paintings in the exhibition have been divided into five categories to reflect the evolution in his work.

Melvyn says it was a book by Scottish biologist and mathematician, Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, called On the Growth of Form, that sparked his interest in geometry.

Melvyn said: “I think geometry is an important part of both the growth of organic life and the structure of architecture and buildings.”

When Melvyn is not painting he has also been involved with theatre and played the piano and trombone in a jazz band - a pursuit reflected in another of his works depicting musicians in bowler hats.

Melvyn said: I hope the picture is a visual joke about how musicians try to play everything.”

The collection of his lifetime works was on show at Mile End Art Pavilion until Sunday to coincide with his Birthday.

But viewings at his studio can be arranged by phoning his daughter Rosetta Robinson on 07925838898.

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