Brian Robinson, Skull
Edition of 27, 2010
Published by Djumbunji Press KickArts Fine Art Printmaking
Image size: 370 x 250 mm
Paper size: 605 x 490 mm
Paper type: BFK white 300gsm
Ink Type: none
Collaborative printer: Carolyn Craig
Editioning printer: Carolyn Craig
Artist: Brian Robinson
Language: Kala lagaw ya
After death, a person entered the spirit world. Because the people believed that the spirit world had a strong control over the natural world, it was important that they remained in favour with the departed. Spirits were called upon and pleaded with to assist with the successful conclusion with many activities and ventures, and were often asked to help increase food supplies. Some men in the community were considered to have special powers that enabled them to contact the spirits.
Funeral and annual commemoration ceremonies for the dead were regarded as very important events. The Meriam practised a method of preserving bodies by drying them [desiccation], while the Western Islander’s had a ritual placement of the body on a burial platform. Upon death, very old and very young people were usually excluded from full rituals, as were females and those of low status.
Death brought obligations to some; to others, fear of retribution from the ghost and relatives of the deceased. The whole community was involved in ritualistic mourning and preparation of the body for disposal or preservation, although specified people had key roles. Amongst the Meriam, preservation techniques were technically complex and can be compared with those of ancient Egypt. Similar ritualistic ceremonies surround Christian burials and tombstone openings today in the Torres Strait Islands.
Artist 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 1950s and 1960s 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.