Brian Robinson, Ilan mask III
Five colour linocut reduction
Edition of 15, 2011
Published by Djumbunji Press KickArts Fine Art Printmaking
Image size: 300 x 305 mm
Paper size: 610 x 545 mm
Paper: BFK Rives white 300 GSM
Ink: Graphic Chemical Ink Company water-based ink
Editioning printer: Elizabeth Hunter
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 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.
Artwork story: Three types of turtle live in the tropical waters of the Torres Strait, however only one – the hawksbill turtle – was used for mask making, ornaments and tools. Torres Strait Islanders excelled in the skills involved in working delicate turtle shell. Faces such as this one were often part of a larger mask representing animals such as crocodiles, frigate birds and sharks. For these large masks turtle shell was heated and molded into shape, pierced at the edges and sewn together with bark fibres. Human hair, pearl shell, cowrie shell, fibre and white lines were also incorporated. A version of this mask, known locally as buk, was collected by A.C. Haddon in 1888 from the lower Western Island of Prince of Wales.