Brian Robinson, August 23 1898...

Brian Robinson, August 23 1898...

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Full artwork title:  August 23 1898 – Today I collected with much zeal, through the barter and exchange of gifts, ancient artefacts belonging to a race of Indigenous Australians known as Torres Strait Islanders. Wooden masks, pearl shell pendants, smoking pipes, dance objects, and a strange device called a USB flash drive, were among the items obtained. A.C. Haddon

Etching printed in three colours from one plate
Edition of 10, 2012
Published by Djumbunji Press KickArts Fine Art Printmaking
Image size: 495 x 980 mm
Paper size: 800 x 1200 mm
Paper type: Hahnemuhle 300 GSM warm white
Ink type: Charbonell
Editioning printers: Elizabeth Hunter
Artist: Brian Robinson
Language: Kala lagaw ya 
Artwork story: 

Many artefacts taken from Torres Strait in the nineteenth century are now housed in international ethnographic collections. The largest, and arguably best documented, collections from this period were made by Haddon during two visits to the area. He gathered more than 600 artefacts during his first visit in 1888-89, and on his more comprehensively equipped expedition of 1898 acquired a further 1250 objects. Haddon was convinced that the hundreds of art objects collected had to be saved from almost certain destruction by the zealous Christian missionaries intent on obliterating the religious traditions and ceremonies of the islanders. His findings were published in his 1901 book Head-hunters; Black, White and Brown.

Similar anthropological work, the recording of myths and legends from the Torres Strait Islands, was coordinated by Margaret Lawrie from 1960–1972. Her collection complements Haddon's work and can be found at the State Library of Queensland.

Artist's bio:

Brian Robinson is a multi-skilled contemporary artist, whose practice includes painting, printmaking, sculpture and design. The graphic style in his practice combines his Torres Strait Islander heritage with a strong passion for experimentation, both in theoretical approach and medium, as well as a crossing of the boundaries between reality and fantasy. The results combine styles as diverse as graffiti art through to intricate relief carvings and construction sculpture echoing images of Torres Strait cultural motifs, objects and activity. Robinson’s art reflects the tropical marine environment surrounding Waiben (Thursday Island) and the inhabitants of that environment. It is an essential part of his life and culture, imbued with the customs, traditions and lifestyles of Torres Strait Island people. The animals from ancestral stories and their presence today are an integral feature of Robinson’s work.

Robinson’s sculptural practice stems from the discipline of constructivism, a style of sculpture that emerged in the early twentieth century based on carefully structured modules that allow for intricate, and in some cases infinite, patterns of repetition, sometimes used to create limitless, basically planar, screen-like formations, and sometimes employed to make more multi-dimensional structures. Surface treatments for Robinson’s sculptural works have included coconut-leaf matting, split bamboo, cowrie shells, feathers, lace, photographic prints and linocuts on paper.

His approach to printmaking in both etching and linocut is linear in composition and appearance. These prints illustrate Robinson’s depth of connection to heritage paired with his aesthetic and intellectual exploration of Western art iconography in relation and connection to Torres Strait culture.

Robinson's work has contributed significantly to the environs of Cairns, his home for two decades, through a number of major public art installations including the signature five stainless steel woven fish sculptures and fountain installed on the Cairns Esplanade in 2003. His work has been widely collected both privately and through major institutions both in Australia and overseas. From September 2010 Robinson undertook a 12-month Artist in Residence at Djumbunji Press KickArts Fine Art Printmaking Studio located in Cairns, developing an impressive body of new works in etching and linocut.