Posted on | December 6, 2012 | 3 Comments
I lost contact with Tom Lubbock many years before leaving England in 1998, however landing last night on his almost two-year-old online obituary in the UK Independent instantly drove me to sheafs of yellowing newspaper clippings. I have hoarded these through many moves precisely because they contain Tom’s artwork.
The clippings are from the 1989 Independent, a then three- or four-year-old start-up where Tom and I briefly worked together. For reasons that made no obvious sense, I had been appointed restaurant listings editor. Tom was a freelance contributor and friend of the founding arts editor, Tom Sutcliffe. Lubbock’s forehead often shone with sweat, perhaps because he was usually swaddled in enough sweaters, coats and scarves for a Russian winter. You hear about people with “twinkling blue eyes,” but Tom’s blue, blue eyes really did sparkle, as if his intelligence was not only brimming but also somehow carbonated. He didn’t have the-smartest-man-in-the-room syndrome, which was odd, because he usually was the smartest man in any room, but one with a reflexive authority problem that in a place as hierarchal as a newspaper sometimes gave him the sweating, sparkling, bristling quality of someone suffering a small nervous breakdown.
We both became part of a loose group with roots in the arts desk that was largely comprised of clever young Oxbridge types with me an outlier American drop out from the University of Maryland. During the year or so that we caroused around London together our group had a pent-up asymmetry. Most if not all members were besotted by another, but in a way that was too rarely reciprocal. And so we joked that bit more aggressively and desperately about just about everything.
The first one of Tom’s collages I remember being published was of an evil-looking putto that Tom thought should top a page about restaurants with fine wines. Then came the page looking at the favored hangouts of crooks, priests and cabinet ministers. It didn’t take the newspaper’s design department long to decide that Tom’s art belonged in sections where its irreverence wouldn’t risk putting readers off their food. He went on to become well regarded for his collages and a distinguished art critic for the Independent. By the looks of his obituary, along with respect he also found love and contentment, but how perfect that his rebel collages got their foothold in the least notionally acceptable section. Without further reminiscence, here, dug out from old clippings files, are some of the earliest, the first for all I know, of Tom’s collages to appear in the British mainstream press.