Artist David Robilliard changed Russell Tovey’s life. It was Robilliard who inspired Tovey’s love of art, his free attitude towards sex, as well as his own sexuality. He is one of the most important people in Tovey’s life, despite the fact that they never met (sadly Robilliard died of AIDS before Tovey hit double digits). In this WePresent film Tovey embarks on a highly personal and intimate journey to discover who the artist truly was through the people Robilliard drank with, worked with, slept with and laughed with.
Though Russell Tovey and David Robilliard never met, Robilliard has remained a totemic presence in Tovey’s life, a source of strength, companionship and constant inspiration. In the emotional short documentary film “Life Is Excellent”, Tovey launches into a mission to track down and meet Robilliard’s friends, lovers and colleagues in an attempt to deepen his understanding of who Robilliard was and what his true legacy has become. Some of these people have never spoken publicly about him before.
Although Tovey thinks he knows a lot about Robilliard, the journey throws up revelations, challenging the vision Tovey has constructed of his hero. As is often the case when trying to understand people after they’ve gone, the question of “who was this person”, becomes not quite an answer but a testament to how beautiful, complex and contradictory each of us is.
Robilliard, like so many working artists taken before their time, has remained shrouded in semi-obscurity since his death in 1988 from AIDS. Tovey is rightly concerned about the risk of him being forgotten forever. “It could’ve been me, if I’d been born ten years earlier. And I feel like I’m part of a lucky generation,” explains Tovey of the loss of artists to AIDS in the film. “I feel a responsibility to make sure people know who David Robilliard is because we should put people back into history that disappeared.”
Now, through all these touching interviews, performance pieces of Robilliard’s work by the likes of Bimini Bon Boulash, Harry Trevaldwyn and Self Esteem and displays of his artworks, WePresent is proud to help ensure that David Robilliard and his artistic vision is memorialized.
See Life is Excellent as part of We Move in Circles, the exhibition open this week in London as part of Russell Tovey's guest curatorship. Find out more here.