Colour File interview: Bob Osborne

Chiswick artist Bob Osborne (AKA Rebel Not Taken) blends the ‘vulgar and the sublime’, taking inspiration from fairgrounds, seaside humour and other aspects of his childhood (his family were west London rag and bone men). Bob (AKA @RebelNotTaken) and his partner in crime, renowned mosaicist Carrie Reinhardt (whose brand is Mad In England) will be putting on a bumper exhibition of over 50 new artworks in west London throughout May to unveil their recent ‘Mad in Chiswick’ range. The infamous duo have created a body of work to celebrate the eccentricity of their local area and these pieces will be unveiled for the first time at The Hogarth Club. Reichardt and Osborne have been busy collaging Victorian postcards of W4 landmarks, re-firing ceramics with a satirical twist and decorating crockery with their seditious and humorous Mad in England and Rebel Not Taken brands.

Martha: What is your first colour memory?
Bob: My earliest colour memories were of greys and rusts. Growing up in 1950’s London does seem a bit monochrome in retrospect and my family were rag and bone men and scrap metal dealers so those hues permeate my childhood memories in an almost Proustian way.
Then the Swinging Sixties arrived and Pop Art burst upon the scene. I vividly recall wearing my Lord Kitchener’s Red Army jacket down Portobello Road in 1968.

‘Crossing Boundaries’ by Bob Osborne

Martha: What’s your favourite colour?
Bob: My favourite colour has always been blue. It is such a sensual and cool colour. I have spent many years living in the Greek Islands and Cornwall where the seas range from a palate of peacock blue to cerulean. I used Klein Blue pigment a lot in my early collages and constructions and it has always been a leit-motif in my work. My car is Matisse blue and I have several French labourers jackets in various shades of Gauloises blue.

French labourers’ jacket

Martha: How does colour make you feel?
Bob: I prefer cool colours and have become a big fan of greys as decorative colours. I have recently painted some of my bedrooms with Charleston Grey, which is very subtle and calm. I have worked a lot with bleached driftwood which can look very mysterious as well as having a Zen like quality which I love. I often use grey for my painted frames and it works well as a backdrop and counterpoint for more vivid tones. Sometimes it is also good to throw caution to the wind and I love Fauvist combinations such as red and purple and orange and green.

Martha: What colour could you do without?
Bob: Colours that I use sparingly are yellows and greens. I do think these need to be used judiciously in art or decoration as they can be discordant. I am a fan of ochre especially in combination with blues and black, but avoid the more citric and creamy yellows and still have nightmares about an ex-neighbour’s avocado bathroom suite.
One colour combination I see every day that sparks joy is the blue English Hedonists plaque on my studio wall which is roughly painted with Moroccan ochre pigment.

Washed up on a beach in Newlyn

Martha: Are there any rules about colour or are rules made to be broken?
Bob: There are really no rules about combining colours. I think it is more a case of people having good or bad taste. Colour can be such a momentous emotion. I recently went to a funeral of a friend of mine who was a writer and his Mexican wife told me that I should wear something bright and cheerful. I took this literally and wore a bold African silk shirt blasting out every colour under the sun. Unfortunately it didn’t translate well to a Somerset church in February with everyone else wearing black.






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