It wasn’t too long ago that the world discovered that Robbie Williams, best known for tracks like “Rock DJ” and “Feel” has another passion—painting. Joining hands with decor pro Ed Godrich, the Creative Director of Godrich Interiors, the English singer and songwriter took the world by storm earlier this year when he unveiled his first public art exhibition at Sotheby’s in London named ‘Williams Godrich’, a series of graphic (one might even say psychedelic) artworks that seem to reveal a new facet each time one looks at them.
Now, Williams and Godrich are taking their talents oversees, and are all set to present their works—including a few never-seen-before canvases—at Sotheby’s Dubai. “Robbie and Ed’s paintings are amazing in installation – they are made to stand in front of and read really well as a body of works hung together,” says Sotheby’s Contemporary Art specialist Hugo Cobb. “We are really excited to be hosting the second ever showcase of their works in Dubai, a city known for its burgeoning cultural scene and its taste for innovation.” And the duo couldn’t agree more. “We have a great partnership with Sotheby’s who hosted our first show in London. They presented an exciting opportunity at their gallery in Dubai and we were delighted to work together again,” they told Vogue Arabia. “These works are an evolution. The paintings can be seen as a relative of the London show, maybe a cousin or possibly a brother (we chose women’s names in the London show, and all men’s names this time around). They are at a different scale, on a new surface, with freshly created characters appearing throughout. Like a newly discovered family that no one knew existed!” As they gear up for their Dubai debut, the two creatives pause for a quick chat with Vogue Arabia about what’s to come.
Vogue Arabia: Congratulations, Robbie and Ed! Tell us, what’s the best part about working with each other? And what’s the worst?
Creativity runs through both of us at 100 miles an hour. The best part is being able to harness that with an individual that you respect, producing work that you love. The worst part is when we get caught in a creative traffic jam. This happens because there are so many ideas. We are learning how to navigate our way round this after five years of collaboration.
Robbie Williams: “I hope to show that art can be unpretentious and accessible – just pick up a paintbrush and see what comes out”
Robbie, for years you’ve been known as an iconic musician and singer – songwriter, with the world only very recently learning about your flair for art. How did this passion come about? What is your first memory with painting?
I first got into creating art when I first got sober over 20 years ago, but for a while it was a very personal thing. Once I started though, it didn’t take long for me to realize that, just like music, art has the ability to soothe. It became a way for me to channel my emotions – be it frustration, happiness, joy, anger, you name it. Friends and family definitely gave us the confidence to show our work to the world, and of course we are really grateful to the team at Sotheby’s for believing in our art too.
During lockdown is when the passion really took a hold. I’d spend up to eight hours a day drawing huge abstract pieces in my garage (which I turned into an art studio back in 2019). It was Banksy’s documentary Exit through the Gift Shop which made me realize art is punk if you want it to be. In fact, art is really whatever you want it to be.
Dubai seems to hold a special place in your heart – tell us a little more about your relationship with the city.
I’ve been to Dubai many times and always have a brilliant time – incredible food, lovely people and sunshine.
What is the inspiration behind your artworks? What is the message you hope to convey with your pieces?
I’m a big fan of surrealism, abstraction and pop art, and maybe you can see that in our works. While we were working on this series, we would talk about the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring as we’re both huge fans of their work – but mainly we were thinking of who we were in the 1990s and the music scene at that time. We wanted to channel that energy and infuse our work with it. I hope to show that art can be unpretentious and accessible – just pick up a paintbrush and see what comes out. You never know, it could be great!
Have any of your artworks ever featured in your music videos? If yes, which ones?
Not in my own music videos, no… but on my current tour, there are a couple of songs that feature the artwork on the big screens. I am also part of an electronic side-project called ‘Lufthaus’ and we used our paintings for single artwork and in some of the visual aspects of our music videos too. It’s exciting to see the two worlds collide.
What has your experience working with Ed been like? What do you think he brings to the table that you perhaps don’t?
We spend a lot of time together trying different things, it’s a very collaborative process. When something eventually works — and clicks — it’s magical.
Does art – be it painting or singing – help soothe your mind? What music do you usually listen to while working on your artworks?
Art is definitely good for my mind – it’s a form of meditation – and having purpose drives me. Music soothes, its company when you’re lonely, it makes you feel – art is the same to me. The creativity comes from the same place, you just try and shine the light in a different corner.
Ed Godrich: “Art has always been the starting point for any interior that was created, the very first and the most important thing to be considered. All other decisions follow the art.”
Your name is synonymous with impeccable interiors — how did painting come into the mix for you? Has it always been something you enjoy?
Thank you, “impeccable interiors”… I will bank that! Art has been an integral part of my life, since school. Always been there and always will be. I see art in everything that surrounds me, be it a Smurf, a rave flyer or a pair of trainers.
Tell us a little bit about your relationship with Robbie – how did you meet and decide to work together?
We met over 10 years ago. I designed Robbie and Ayda [Field Williams]’s house in London. We fed off each other’s aesthetic during the project and when the house was complete, we didn’t want the story to end. Robbie and I then locked ourselves away in his garage in LA for a few weeks developing our art through experimentation, which was quite out there at times! It was here that our first paintings were born and we have been at it ever since.
What part of the creation process of each artwork do you enjoy the most, and why?
Firstly the collaboration with Robbie. Our process is intuitive and spontaneous. As the piece develops, the complex jigsaw of characters fuse with one another. It’s very hard to explain this aspect of the work without having the painting in front of us. For example, you move your head a few degrees to the side and the character becomes someone entirely different. I sound a fraction mad at this point, but you will get it when you meet the work.
If you could pick one favorite canvas from the entire collection that will show at Sotheby’s Dubai, which one would it be? Why?
This is quite a hard question to answer, a little like who is your favorite child. I of course love them all equally. Their human names make it all the more personal. If I had to choose… it would be Alan—but please don’t tell the others this.
How important a role do you think art plays in interiors? How much do you rely on it when you’re designing a space?
Most of my clients were art-centric. Art has always been the starting point for any interior that was created, the very first and the most important thing to be considered. All other decisions follow the art.
Finally, what’s one thing about the Middle Eastern aesthetic that you really admire?
How the Middle East has woven its history, heritage and culture seamlessly and creatively into their twenty-first-century aesthetic.