Brian Robinson, Sa mina las kaikai

Brian Robinson, Sa mina las kaikai


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Linocut embossing from one block
Edition of 10, 2011
Published by Djumbunji Press KickArts Fine Art Printmaking
Image size: 495 x 1080mm
Paper size: 520 x 1200 mm620mm H x 1280mm W
Paper type: Arches BFK white 300gsm
Editioning printer: Elizabeth Hunter

This work was a finalist in the 28th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award.

Due to the nature of the embossing this artwork is difficult to reproduce photographically. Please do not hesitate to contact KickArts Shop staff to receive a larger image via email than the website can support.

Artist: Brian Robinson
Language: Kala lagaw ya

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.

Artwork story: Before the arrival of the London Missionary Society in 1871 to ‘evangelise’ the Torres Strait Islanders with the ‘word of God’, traditional island life prospered. As island communities established, they developed within their marine environment a way of life and technology based not only on hunting and gathering but also fishing and, on most islands, horticulture [gardening].

Artistic practice portrayed a vital role in everyday life, as this form of expression gave shape to the Islanders’ gods. Their inherent spirituality derived from ancestral ties to the land and sea. This spirit world was given form through the creation of ritual objects, in particular ceremonial masks used in dance. The mask was the medium by which Islanders could evoke spiritual protection during war, hunting, initiation and cult practices, and increase ceremonies, which meant continued abundance of food stock, as well as also determining an individual’s position in society.

With the introduction of Christianity came new Western attitudes, influences and implements, and it wasn’t long before these new materials and tools were widely accepted. Non-traditional media was explored and two-dimensional painting emerged as a dominant form of expression. The suppression of traditional religious practices in favour of Christianity also altered the way Islanders expressed their culture. Dance now emerged as the pre-eminent cultural practice around which secular activities revolved.

Sa Mina Las Kaikai, a phrase in Broken English or Torres Strait creole, translates into English as ‘The Last Supper’. As one would recall, The Last Supper is a magnificent 15th Century mural painted in Milan by Leonardo da Vinci in 1495. A biblical narrative that, according to Christian belief, was the final meal that Jesus Christ shared with his apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. Sa Mina Las Kaikai is the Torres Strait version with an interesting twist that intertwines traditional Torres Strait religious and material culture with Western Art through the genre of classical Renaissance iconography and mythology.