Remembering Robert Offord

Robert Offord, from Winchmore Hill, was an acclaimed artist
Robert Offord, from Winchmore Hill, was an acclaimed artist

An obituary for the Winchmore Hill artist, written by Neil Littman

Robert Offord was one of the founder members of the London Gay Men’s Chorus and a successful artist. Many of his art pieces were reproduced and sold as pictures and posters, and he regularly exhibited work in major exhibitions and art galleries, including the Royal Institute, the New English Art Club, Bankside, and the Mall Gallery.

Robert created all of his life, even working right through his cancer treatment over the last two years, creating artworks, jewellery and sculpture in mixed mediums, often abstract and using recycled materials. He studied jewellery and ceramics at Middlesex University and graduated in 1981 with a first class degree. He taught life drawing for a short time at the Bezalel Art College in Jerusalem and after attaining a teaching qualification went on to lead several different art classes at Southgate Technical College.

Robert was active in artists’ circles and groups in Palmers Green and across North London, where he had lived all his life. This included exhibiting at Salisbury House as part of the Enfield Art Circle. He said of his work: “I cross boundaries and work in many different media, from conventional painting and drawing to 3D boxed constructions which can seem to extrapolate a vast alternative reality from some humble found object. A common theme, which has reoccurred in my work for many years, is the juxtaposition and contrast of elements. These can be anything from natural forms compared with man-made fabrications, to geometrical order, versus the chaos of randomness.

“I both explore opposites and propose similes. Figurative and abstract, body and soul, or simply earth.”

At the City of London Boys School, Robert’s teenage years were “constructively derailed” by psychedelic folk music. In the 1970s he developed a passion for pop-art, the punk revolution arrived, and he said his career as a part-time art teacher “was cut short by accidentally achieving international success as a graphic artist”.

Robert was an advocate and activist for social justice, motivated and active politically. A prolific letter writer and lobbyist for social justice, he was a private generous person, a good listener and mentor; often quiet and contemplative but vocal when he wanted to be. Robert was also an active member of the Edward Carpenter movement, empowering gay men to reinforce self belief, living and loving themselves and others. Carpenter was a 19th Century pioneer of LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, and environmentalism.

Robert wrote and published A Secret History of the London Gay Men’s Chorus, a personal memoir that has been reprinted, sold and reviewed widely. He died of pneumonia aged 67 after a two-year battle with lung cancer.