Ian Norbury was introduced to me when I was looking for someone to do some carvings of birds for a film I was producing. We had a thoroughly enjoyable meeting, shared a glass or two of wine and Ian lit a pipe. It’s been like that now for almost 20 years, the only deviation seems to include good food and strong coffee!
Ian, of course, turned down my offer of work; he was too busy…, an exhibition was planned…, he needed to travel… The truth was simply that if he had accepted he would have had to compromise, do someone else’s bidding, be a hired hand, and that is not what Ian Norbury is about.
Over the years I have commissioned two pieces from Ian and am the lucky owner of a number more, and I know that Ian has to be given the freedom to explore in order to deliver a creation in an organic way. He has a voracious appetite for ideas, he’s a great listener, a formidable raconteur, but you can’t buy him; feed him information and detail and the result will inevitably excite and inspire.
Ian is of course technically brilliant but technical in terms of art and creation can sometimes be boring, and that he is not. He is an artist of our time; drawing on the past, but creating and delivering work both for and of the present, as well as the future in a totally uncompromising way. He is able to combine the eye of a cartoonist with the mind of a sharp political commentator.
Like all great artists, Ian invites us to look beyond what we actually see, urging us to open our eyes. To really look, perhaps even to glimpse beyond his own horizons.
Unsurprisingly, Ian Norbury is a complex man – idiosyncratic, charismatic, iconoclastic – a great debunker of pomp, and wonderfully politically incorrect, he is a powerful presence and at times perhaps satanic. He is also a passionate and caring man, a man of passion. He has the delicate and sensual hands of a trusted lover who encourages us to expose his subjects further. His eye is truthful, he sees the beauty but he also sees the pain and doubt; that same unerring eye also reminds us of our responsibilities to this earth and of our own mortality.
It is no wonder to me that Ian Norbury should work with wood, a raw material that is so tactile, warm and sensual. It can also be hard and unforgiving, but with Ian this is a true union of man and material, the one complementing the other to the greatest possible effect.
This book reflects that unity, that unique brilliance.