1972 - 1986
“Have travelled up and down the Eastern Seaboard... around 4 thousand miles and more...Most of it done in a small aeroplane - absolutely beyond description, the travel, the experience, the landscape... breath-taking, taking it in from a tiny aircraft that dipped in and out of it. Some of the views from 'aerial space' of sea and land - brown and green and hazy blues, hues of red subdued by a turn of Winter. Indescribable Robin just indescribable... No painting or poem could phrase or frame such a picture.”
Ribeiro to Robin Paisey (former Keeper of Fine Art, New Walk Museum), 1982
From the early seventies, Ribeiro turned to watercolours, producing a stream of landscapes which conveyed the geological features of Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales. The Dales and the nearby Lake District had a particular resonance with him, both personally and artistically and would shape his work for the next two decades.
Alongside these works, he started to produce a new series of geologically-inspired paintings inspired by his travels to North America which included the Grand Canyon and Mexico. In an exhibition catalogue accompanying his 1986 retrospective at Leicester's New Walk Museum, the museum's then Director - Professor Patrick Boylan - noted the shift accordingly:
"By the mid-1970s he was combining his earlier interest in tortuous root forms with these symbolic forms to create a highly original series of 'line curves' in which the painted image usually spread over both the surface and the sides of three or more shallow canvas relief forms, as in 'Along a Hanging Line Curve' of 1979. Out of these have developed Ribeiro's most recent larger scale paintings - an equally original series of harmonious abstract derived landscapes in bands of blue,grey and purple pastel colours, often reminiscent of gently folded and contorted geographical strata. Alongside these, he is currently producing substantial landscape-derived watercolours with a remarkable luminosity again stretching the medium to considerable and unusual limits."
Patrick Boylan's foreword in the Leicestershire Musuem catalogue, 1986
Patrick would acquire three of these works - out of seven - for the museum.
Unusually, Ribeiro's geological constructions were the only works for which he did a series of detailed preparatory sketches exist as he explored and developed the concept.
In 1980, Ribeiro moved into an attic flat in London's Belsize Park and noted to several friends that the constraints of space meant he could only really work - at least initially - on a small scale. Later, writing to Boylan, Ribeiro confided:
“I did not attach any seriousness to them [watercolours] until recently when they appeared to become my only mode of functioning - physical limitations of space and the general upheaval since 80 onwards was something I have had to live down. They gave me a lot of joy, were extremely relaxing and perhaps levitational. I've felt sure they helped keep me on the rails. I've never enjoyed doing any of my other work which has always been compulsive.”
Ribeiro's letter to Patrick Boylan, 1986
Living close to Hampstead Heath, a new series of finely-detailed grass and tree scenes started to appear, often reflecting the Heath through seasonal change, and dominated - as in his 1960s townscapes - by a visible or semi-visible sun or moon.
In a 2013 talk on the artist, Boylan revealed that these watercolours were never intended for exhibiting but after he had cooked an excellent meal, Ribeiro would pass these around at private dinner parties “like eighteenth century curiosities”.