BRIAN ROBINSON PACIFIC CROSSCURRENTS
IMAGE Detail of exhibition installation Photograph: Michael Marzik
BRIAN ROBINSON PACIFIC CROSSCURRENTS Exhibition dates 9 July - 7 September 2016 Curated by Sally Butler
IMAGE Detail of exhibition installation Photograph: Michael Marzik 2
IMAGE Land Sea Sky - charting our place in the universe 2016 linocut ed. 1/10 99.2 x 193.7 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
IMAGE Usal - the seven sisters that play amongst the stars 2016 linocut mounted on canvas, stick chart sculpture and plastic objects ed. 1/10 100 X 230 X 10 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
IMAGE Shell money image in exhibition installation Photograph: Michael Marzik
FOREWORD Art from the Torres Strait Islands and the Pacific have featured in exhibitions at Cairns Regional Gallery for many years. Most recent featured artists include Alick Tipoti, Ken Thaiday Snr, Greg Semu, Toby Cedar and Grace Lillian Lee. The Gallery also showcased an outsider’s view of the Pacific in the 2016 exhibitions, James Morrison – Re-Imagining Papua New Guinea, and Painter in Paradise – William Dobell in New Guinea.
Brian Robinson: Pacific Crosscurrents brings an exciting new element to this program where a Torres Strait Island artist reflects on his own relationship with Pacific art. The exhibition showcases both new and existing works by Robinson to reflect his interest in combining different cultural perspectives in one frame of reference. These crosscurrents offer a refreshing new mapping of what unites people in the region, and what makes them distinct. Robinson’s art is shown alongside Pacific artworks drawn from public and private cultural heritage collections. Exhibiting the objects that inspire an artist helps explore the process of artists responding to museum collections. Artists around the world have been accessing museum collections over recent decades with the aim of regenerating cultural links that have lapsed or been severed through colonisation. Museums and curators of these collections in turn become collaborators with the artists in revivifying the cultural life and potency of rarely seen objects. This exhibition includes Pacific art from the Solomon Islands, Borneo, Fiji, Timor, and Papua New Guinea, along with historical items from the Torres Strait Islands.
Lenders offered advice about their collections and provided opportunities to let new audiences see the significance of Pacific art of the past in a modern context. The exhibition would not be possible without the generous support of the Australian Museum, in particular Steven Alderton, Director, Programs, Exhibitions and Cultural Collections, and Dr Stan Florerk, Database Manager | Cultural Collections & Community Engagement who provided guidance on the Museum’s extensive Indigenous Pacific and Torres Strait Island Collections. We are also indebted to private collectors, George Craig and his Marineland Melanesia museum on Green Island, and to Chris Boylan, Ed Boylan, and Helen Dennett. We would also like to acknowledge the support of Brian’s Sydney agent, Michael Reid, who provided valuable advice on this network of private collectors.
Brian Robinson: Pacific Crosscurrents is presented as one of a number of exhibitions initiated by the Cairns Regional Gallery as part of its 2016 Cairns Indigenous Art Fair program of exhibitions. The Gallery also acknowledges the generous support of the John Villiers Trust that has contributed financial support to the realisation of this ambitious project. Brian Robinson has a long history with the Cairns Regional Gallery, most notably in his former roles as Senior Curator and Deputy Director. His art practice has been a full time occupation since 2010. Finally, I would like to thank Sally Butler for her significant contribution to this project, both as a guest curator and contributor to the supporting publication. Sally has worked closely with both the artist and Gallery Curator, Ashleigh Campbell, to present an exciting exhibition that is conceived as a large-scale installation of new and existing works that respond to and are informed by ethnographic works from public and private collections. Andrea May Churcher Director Cairns Regional Gallery
In March this year, Indigenous art from the Torres Strait Islands featured in a major art exhibition at one of the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s leading marine science museums, the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. The Museum regularly presents art exhibitions aimed at stimulating awareness about marine ecology and the global problem of a sustainable marine environment. Torres Strait Island art was an obvious choice for inclusion because the region is primarily a marine environment and a complex oceanic crossroad, intersecting Southeast Asia, Melanesia, and Australia. Traditional legends and archaeological evidence reveal that voyagers from around the world travelled these waters over many thousands of years. Islands of the Torres Strait witnessed millennia of human traffic between Papua New Guinea and the Australian landmass. Macassans and Muslim traders from Indonesia and beyond arrived from the west, and from the east the rich voyaging traditions of the southwest Pacific. From 1512, vessels passed through Torres Strait waters carrying cargoes of sandalwood, pearl goods, bĂŞche de mer (sea slugs), and staple supplies between Europe and Asia. Torres Strait Islanders themselves were master mariners.
INTRODUCTION Sally Butler Associate Professor in Art History School of Communications & Arts The University of Queensland
IMAGE ABOVE You will travel in a land of marvels 2015 linocut ed. 2/15 50 x 71.6 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
IMAGE RIGHT Ilan regatta 2011 linocut Artist Proof 3/3 24.3 x 78.7 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
Brian Robinson: Pacific Crosscurrents is an innovative art installation that presents one artist’s attempt to trace intersections between these ancient traditions and modern histories. Sea voyaging is historically a key vehicle for the exchange of knowledge, cultural practices and survival techniques, and it thematically flows through this exhibition, connecting people across time and place. The exhibition is unusual and experimental in terms of how it crosses national and ethnic boundaries. Robinson’s art picks up on the deep history of Austronesian Indigenous homelands that covered almost half of the world. Voyagers remembered in traditional cultural stories from this region travelled the seas between Madagascar and Hawaii, Taiwan and the Easter Islands. Cultural practices of today retain the imprint of this Pacific network that linked Indigenous populations in diverse ways. Local cultures developed the stamp of unique identity, but crosscurrents continued to filter through the region, and still do so today. Sea voyaging is a theme that the artist uses to relate historic Pacific interchange with the conditions of today’s global society. Robinson’s approach to the exhibition presents a Torres Strait Island perspective of the circulation of ideas and processes of exchange: between different cultures, and across time. Comic book heroes, Greek temples, and cheeky cupid figures jostle for attention within the rhythms of Pacific cosmology. Patterns and designs that register shared Pacific histories in trading goods, sea-faring, agriculture, and mortuary rituals emerge in his art as an undercurrent of global contemporary life. The premise for Pacific Crosscurrents grew from Robinson’s ongoing artistic interest in traditional Indigenous navigation, and how and what it moved across the Pacific. During visits to museum collections he researched items conveying symbolism related to shared cultural knowledge and beliefs about such matters as gardening, weaving, and celestial navigation. Shared visual cues included recurring patterns associated with tattoo designs, and the motif of an abstracted elongated face often used in Torres Strait Island masks. His earlier art involved these elements, but museum collections provided a method of broadening the scope of these signposts and cues across the Pacific.
IMAGE LEFT A chalice of fruit rose from the waves beckoning them to Kaikai 2014 linocut Artist Proof 1/1 46.6 x 80.3 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
IMAGE ABOVE Cast Net, Waiben Wharf 2011 linocut Artist Proof 1/1 59.5 x 45.0 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
Brian Robinson’s background, biographically and professionally, is a crosscurrent in itself, and helps in understanding his approach to this exhibition. Born in 1973 on Waiben (also known as Thursday Island) in the Torres Strait Islands, Robinson’s heritage is complex, involving Torres Strait Island’s Kala Lagaw Ya kinship, the Wuthathi of the Shelburne Bay on the Australian mainland region of Cape York Peninsula, and a Malay lineage from his paternal great grandfather. As a child on Waiben he learnt Zenadh Kes local traditions alongside an education in the Catholic religion and the Islamic faith; the latter from his great grandfather whose original home was Sarawak in Borneo. Through his art, Robinson explores his interconnected bloodlines and heritage as the formation of his own global cultural imagination. Epic adventures and legends, where heroes triumph over evil, hold a special fascination for boys in their formative years. Robinson’s art recalls these influences on his youth in a uniquely cross-cultural manner. A lineage of forefathers  is a perfect example, paying homage to powerful ancestors from the Drummond, Villaflor, Pablo, Malay, Assacruz, Arboleda, Robinson and Salmond families connected to the artist1. This global perspective encourages us to consider what is shared across cultures, along with how they differ. The image pivots on Robinson’s Athe (grandfather), Ali Drummond, and his love of the legendary comic book hero, The Phantom – the Ghost Who Walks. The fictional crime fighter operated from the imaginary African country of Bangalla and had qualities inspired by spiritual and natural phenomena, similar to Torres Strait Island legends. Robinson says of the
IMAGE LEFT A lineage of forefathers 2015 linocut ed. 2/15 49.0 x 79.3 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
IMAGE ABOVE Kuika-Garka 2012 linocut Artist Proof 2/2 24.5 x 99.5 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
Phantom in his art, “the character was created by Lee Falk’s lifelong fascination with global myths and legends, such as those of King Arthur, as well as modern fictional characters such as Zorro, and Tarzan.” A long line of comic-book superheroes wearing skin-tight costumes were modelled on The Phantom, but Robinson is interested in the fact that the Phantom “does not have any superpowers but relies mainly on his strength, intelligence and fearsome reputation of being an immortal ghost to defeat his foes.” To a youthful Robinson growing up on Waiben, the qualities of the Phantom would register links with the powerful spiritual forces of the Kala Lagaw Ya’s ancestral Zugubal spiritual warriors. Robinson’s 2015 artwork, Warriors, sorcerers + spirits, is another example of a global cultural imagination inspired by warrior leaders. Here Robinson spins a fluid cosmological energy around such dramatically different motifs as the Torres Strait Island dari ceremonial headdress, Darth Vader and Batman headgear, and a crucifix signifying, in this context, the Christian crusades. This mix is not flippant or superficial because it aims to capture the psychological terrain of cultural exchange that often operates around us, almost invisibly. It is a Pacific perspective on what is at stake in being a global citizen. We all have primary ‘triggers’ that ground our sense of belonging to particular people and places, but we also participate in familiar realms of exchange where our shared ‘global’ self also becomes part of our heritage. Robinson’s cultural background is underpinned by crosscurrents, but so too is his professional background. He is perhaps best described as a hybrid artist-curator whose creative strategies derive from a curatorial eye brought to artmaking. Although he was an artist before and during his curatorial career, curatorial experiences appear to have helped shape an artistic expression that positions the keepsakes of time and place into new contexts. Almost all of Robinson’s art is arguably a form of tableau that exhibits a wideangle view of life. The idea of approaching this exhibition as one synthesised installation, rather than simply a display of different artworks, is in part inspired by his former roles as Senior Curator and Deputy Director at the Cairns Regional Gallery, and a career as a curator spanning fifteen years. During this curatorial career Robinson gained a sound understanding of public art museums and collections, particularly through internships at the National Museum of Australia and the National Gallery of Australia, and more locally at the Gab Titui Cultural Centre on Waiben.
IMAGE Warriors, sorcerers + spirits 2015 linocut ed. 3/15 60 x 114 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
Knowledge about the contents, cataloguing, and storage of these Collections remained a fascination for the artist since resuming full-time art practice in 2010. Curators deal with collections of objects and ideas, and encourage artworks to tell their stories in different contexts. This is a useful way of thinking about Robinson’s art – he curates different elements into an artwork. Each element retains its original story but the significance of the story changes within different contexts. Curators are also keen researchers who read widely about art and its histories and devise creative ways of encouraging the art to reconfigure its histories. The tableau-like artwork Navigating narrative – Nemo’s encounter in the Torres Strait  reflects the curator-researcher at work in the form of art history books that float among the waters of the Torres Strait. Like curators, Robinson’s artworks navigate histories and traditions looking for crosscurrents, and in this case, their vehicle of navigation is Jules Verne’s fictional character of Captain Nemo.
Crosscurrents in Robinson’s art are about links and connections, but also gaps, and what gets ignored and passed over. The most prominent text included in Navigating narrative is the book title, Primitive Art, that sits alongside another titled Oceanic Art. Until very recently the western classical tradition virtually ignored these categories of art. ‘Great art’ brought to mind the heroes of a western tradition - Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Monet and Picasso - but who could name the greats of non-western art? Oceanic art was categorically separate to the western tradition – its so-called primitive origins disallowed any crosscurrents with the artistic ‘advance’ of western civilisation. Navigating narrative curates this history differently. The foundations of western civilisation, signified by the skewed Greek columns on the Torres Strait seabed, are broken fragments of a past (or fictional Atlantis) that contrast with the continuous flux of a Torres Strait Island cosmos. The columns are part of that cosmos, but their rigid form collapses under the weight of something far more inclusive and fluid.
IMAGE Handline Ngurupai Wharf 2011 linocut Artist Proof 54.3 x 48.2 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
IMAGE Navigating Narrative - Nemoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s encounter in the Torres Strait 2011 linocut Artist Proof 55.3 x 109.3 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
RESPONDING TO COLLECTIONS Brian Robinson: Pacific Crosscurrents includes Robinson’s own art alongside Torres Strait Island and Pacific items from public and private collections. They include the Indigenous Pacific Collections and Torres Strait Island Collections of the Australian Museum in Sydney, private collections of Chris Boylan, Ed Boylan, George Craig, Helen Dennett, and the artist’s own collection. Exhibiting cultural heritage collection material alongside Robinson’s art is an attempt to replicate the artist’s practice of responding to museum collections; a practice in common with his contemporary peers from the Torres Strait such as Alick Tipoti, Dennis Nona, and Janet Fieldhouse. Cultural heritage collections in public museums around the world are used increasingly by artists to reconnect with knowledge and traditions impacted by colonisation. Artists are breathing new life into images, patterns and shapes of the past, enriching cultural expression of the present. This exhibition also profiles the idea that museum collections are crosscurrents in themselves. Carved and woven items from areas such as the Solomon Islands, Borneo, and Papua New Guinea feature in the exhibition alongside material from the Torres Strait Islands. Robinson consulted with curators of the Australian Museum’s collection of historic Torres Strait Island and Pacific material, and also accessed rarely exhibited Pacific artworks from several significant private collections. However the journey through the collections was mainly personal as the artist explored his own intuition about cultural exchange based on his life and experiences. Links in the exhibition are thus potentially biographical more so than academically ethnographic.
IMAGE Zenadh Kes relic 1 2012 etching Trial Proof 37.2 x 23.2 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
IMAGE TOP Woven ware – Boi 2010 etching Artist Proof 1/3 42.0 x 97.3 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
IMAGE ABOVE Woven ware – Balboi 2010 etching Artist Proof 1/3 48.7 x 97.3 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
The idea of a personal response linking all of the material inspired Robinson to approach the entire exhibition as a single installation. Patterns painted on the wall help cohere this effect, bringing some of Robinson’s earlier work together with new pieces made specifically for the exhibition, and interspersing them alongside collection holdings that exhibit recurring motifs of Pacific crosscurrents. It is a method of disclosing something of the process involved in artists responding to cultural heritage collections. Over the past twenty years, an increasing number of Australia’s public and private museums and galleries joined global momentum to increase access to their collections for Indigenous people2. Many Indigenous communities want to reconnect with cultural heritage material that was either traded or stolen for these collections. Indigenous people in turn contribute more knowledge about collections and in some cases request repatriation of particularly precious items. Artists have been particularly keen to view this material and research archives, producing art that absorbs retrieved knowledge into a revivified collective cultural memory.
These artistic acts of remembering are quite often a creative response that positions cultural heritage in entirely new contexts, and this is certainly the case with Robinson’s art. Museum collections themselves are represented in the exhibition, but are also explicitly referenced in a number of Robinson’s artworks whose titles draw attention to the collections themselves and what they contain. Notable examples in the exhibition include the 2012 etching with a title taken from a quote from the records of Cambridge University’s 19th century anthropologist/collector A. C. Haddon - 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. A sequel to this artwork is the 2014 linocut print titled and meanwhile back at Cambridge…a skeletal remain from the Torres Strait is studied, and a 2016 etching titled A curious bunch of bits and bobs – Oceanic artefacts at the Australian Museum. Robinson’s imagery encourages consideration of links generated in the process of bringing these collections together, as well as cultural connections inherent to the items themselves.
IMAGE RIGHT Detail of exhibition installation Photograph: Michael Marzik
IMAGE LEFT + ABOVE August 23 1898 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 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 2012 etching Artist Proof 48.6 x 98.5 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
IMAGE TOP A curious bunch of bits and bobs - Oceanic artefacts at the Australian Museum 2016 etching ed. 1/10 49.2 x 98.7 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
IMAGE LEFT Detail of exhibition installation Photograph: Michael Marzik
IMAGE ABOVE and meanwhile back at Cambridge . . . a skeletal remain from the Torres Strait is studied 2014 linocut Artist Proof 45.7 x 30.0 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF CROSSCURRENTS
IMAGE LEFT Detail of exhibition installation Photograph: Michael Marzik
IMAGE Charms to defeat the kracken, 2015 linocut ed. 1/15 97.0 x 58.3 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
IMAGE LEFT Artists unknown Collection of 3 bamboo containers, Bouganville - Buka c. early 20th century bamboo Dimensions various
IMAGE ABOVE Cowries in a floral landscape 2015 etching Artist Proof 28.5 x 48.5 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF CROSSCURRENTS
Collection items were chosen for this exhibition because of how they represent Pacific crosscurrents – whether as objects that were actually exchanged, or as objects that bear the trace of cultural exchange. Bamboo lime containers are a perfect example. Containers such as these carried mineral lime powder used to diminish the bitter taste from chewing betel nut. Approximately ten percent of the world’s population use this stimulant, across the Pacific and Southeast Asia and including India and east Africa. Containers are made from gourds, bamboo, bone and carved wood and often have decorations made by incised designs related to kinship clans and featuring all manner of figurative and abstract symbols related to the spiritual culture and social status of individuals. These designs and symbols have a remarkable resonance across a broad range of Pacific and Southeast Asian cultures. The theme of shell money features in Robinson’s art for similar reasons. Like bamboo lime containers, shell money circulated broadly across the Pacific and Southeast Asia with cowrie shells in particular being an almost universal form of trade. Shell money had many different kinds of value relevant to the context of trade. The spectacular clamshell wealth rings, round shell money objects, and body ornaments that are included in the exhibition are further examples of how motifs, designs, and patterns circulated around the Pacific.
IMAGE ABOVE Tagai, Guardian of the heavens 2007 linocut Artist Proof 2/2 60 x 200.7 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
One of the most intriguing aspects of Robinsonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s interest in Pacific crosscurrents is perhaps the way in which his artistic and cultural intuitions tap into the emerging ancient world of the Lapita â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a Pacific voyaging people who brought a remarkably consistent cultural system to the Pacific some 4,000 years ago3. Archaeological excavations over the past fifty years have unearthed pottery sherds, full vessels, ceramic figurines, numerous shell, stone and bone weapons, jewellery and musical instruments, on the shores of islands in Polynesia, Micronesia, and parts of Melanesia. Called the Lapita after the island in Noumea, where remnant pottery sherds were first documented, these expert sea voyagers travelled the Pacific approximately 3900 and 2400 years ago. They brought with them new food plants, canoe and fishing technology, and introduced a distinctive pottery manufacture and decoration. The extent of their reach remains speculation, however Lapita have a confirmed presence over more than 300 sites, from Papua New Guinea to Samoa, Tonga, Noumea, and the Caroline Islands (Federated states of Micronesia and Palau) to the north. Recent Lapita finds on the southern cost of Papua New Guinea suggest their migration into the Torres Strait around 2500 years ago4.
Brian Robinson: Pacific Crosscurrents intersects with these recent archaeological studies through similarities in patterns, motifs, and instruments of Pacific exchange. Beautifully decorated pots are the outstanding remnant feature of the Lapita tradition. Their decorative elongated face motif and intricately gridded patterns immediately bring to mind a pan-Pacific aesthetic expressed through living decorative traditions of tattoo, bark cloth, and carving. Lapita designs were stamped into the clay using a fine-toothed instrument, similar to that used in traditional tattoo practices. They cultivated plants for food, introducing banana and coconut plants, and fished using extensive knowledge of seasons and weather patterns. Lapita expansion across the Pacific required a wealth of sustainable food and voyaging practices that still exist in the region. 35
IMAGE Up in the heavens 2015 linocut ed. 2/15 59.8 x 114.0 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
Gardening by reading the skies and stars is part of Robinson’s interest in Pacific cosmology. His ‘bloom’ series are metaphors for the sustainable lifestyle afforded to Torres Strait Islander peoples through their knowledge of gardening guided by understanding environmental rhythms and patterns. Ari Puilaig  (translates as Maker of the rain), is a sculptural installation inspired by flowering plants and fruiting trees cultivated according to knowledge of monsoonal rains, changing seasons, and reading the signs of tidal patterns and migrating birds. Ceremonial masks were often created for rituals associated with increased garden produce. The Mawa mask included in the exhibition (and featured in Robinson’s artworks), were worn by village sorcerers during harvest season. Robinson is interested in the remarkable similarities across the Asia Pacific region regarding traditional ritual and beliefs about gardening practices, and how certain sorcerers and masks recur across the region. Robinson’s 2.4 cubic metre sculptural installation titled, Picasso’s Lagaw Minaral  (translated as Picasso’s Island Designs), was created for this exhibition and is perhaps its signature piece. The sixteen elongated spear tips represent a Pandora’s box of cultural exchange. Its assemblage of slotted hand-cut components references how Picasso drew inspiration for his experiments in abstract art from Indigenous art, including Pacific and Torres Strait Island art held in his private collection. Robinson described how he aimed for this work to be ‘an environment of exchange in one installation’5. Picasso researched cultural heritage material in the early twentieth century when museums zealously developed their collections. Picasso was thus one of the first artists to respond
IMAGE Bligh’s encounter 2012 etching Artist Proof 2/3 29.3 x 39.0 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
to museum collections, and the crosscurrents helped change the direction of western art. Robinson’s sculptural installation brings the cycle of exchange full circle by relocating some of the Indigenous influences on Picasso back in their context of origin. This is the true nature of global art: artists exchanging ideas and techniques, as has been the case in the Pacific for centuries. Sally Butler Associate Professor in Art History School of Communications & Arts The University of Queensland
Footnotes: 1 2
Brian Robinson, Artist Statement. ‘A lineage of forefathers’ 2015 Joy Hendry, Reclaiming Culture: Indigenous People and Self-Representation (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005); Christina Kreps, Liberating Culture: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Museums, Curation, and Heritage Preservation (London: Routledge, 2003) Patrick Vinton Kirch, The Lapita Peoples, Ancestors of the Oceanic World (Blackwell Publishers, Oxford & Massachusetts, 1997) Ian McNiven et.al., ‘New Direction in Human Colonisation of the Pacific’. Australian Archeology No. 72 (June 2011), pp: 1-6 Interview with the artist 23 June 2016
IMAGE Before the monsoonal onset 2016 mixed media wall sculpture 150 x 300 x 42 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth Photograph: Michael Marzik
IMAGE Ari Puilaig 2015 mixed media wall sculpture 200 x 440 x 48 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth Photograph: Michael Marzik
IMAGE LEFT Mawa - Abundance of blooms through actions, words and songs 2015 PVC plastic, enamel paint 200.5 x 110 x 44.5 cm Courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
IMAGE ABOVE Artist unknown Mask “buk” Saibai Island, Torres Strait Made before 1884 wood, shell 67.0 x 24.7 x 23.0 cm Collected by Captain John Strachan in 1884
IMAGE Detail of exhibition installation Photograph: Michael Marzik
Unless otherwise specified, all works are by Brian Robinson and are courtesy of the Artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Mossenson Galleries, Perth
Tagai, Guardian of the heavens 2007 linocut Artist Proof 2/2 60 x 200.7 cm Woven ware – Balboi 2010 etching Artist Proof 1/3 48.7 x 97.3 cm Woven ware – Boi 2010 etching Artist Proof 1/3 42.0 x 97.3 cm Ilan Mask 1 2010 etching Artist Proof 17.5 x 49.6 cm
LIST OF WORKS
Lurking Baidam I Kursi 2011 linocut Artist Proof 1/3 29.7 x 61.5 cm Ilan regatta 2011 linocut Artist Proof 3/3 24.3 x 78.7 cm Navigating Narrative - Nemo’s encounter in the Torres Strait 2011 linocut Artist Proof 55.3 x 109.3 cm Handline Ngurupai Wharf 2011 linocut Artist Proof 54.3 x 48.2 cm Cast Net, Waiben Wharf 2011 linocut Artist Proof 1/1 59.5 x 45.0 cm Bligh’s encounter 2012 etching Artist Proof 2/3 29.3 x 39.0 cm Zenadh Kes relic 1 2012 etching Trial Proof 37.2 x 23.2 cm 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 2012 etching Artist Proof 48.6 x 98.5 cm Kuika-Garka 2012 linocut Artist Proof 2/2 24.5 x 99.5 cm
Up in the heavens the Gods contemplate their next move 2012/2013 6 panel installation, linocut mounted on canvas and mixed media linocut ed. 2/15 329.5 x 368 x 53 cm Abacus, kupe, notebook (the keys to Fibonacci and the golden ratio 2012 etching Trial Proof 29.7 x 49.0 cm A chalice of fruit rose from the waves beckoning them to Kaikai 2014 linocut Artist Proof 1/1 46.6 x 80.3 cm and meanwhile back at Cambridge . . . a skeletal remain from the Torres Strait is studied 2014 linocut Artist Proof 45.7 x 30.0 cm Classified Skeletal remain 1 2014 colour reduction linocut Artist Proof 19.8 x 51.5 cm Krar-Aimai 101 2014 linocut ed. 14/15 70 x 49.7 cm Ari Puilaig 2015 mixed media wall sculpture 200 x 440 x 48 cm Warriors, sorcerers + spirits 2015 linocut ed. 3/15 60 x 114 cm Charms to defeat the kracken 2015 linocut ed. 1/15 97.0 x 58.3 cm Mawa - Abundance of blooms through actions, words and songs 2015 PVC plastic, enamel paint 200.5 x 110 x 44.5 cm You will travel in a land of marvels 2015 linocut ed. 2/15 50 x 71.6 cm Cowries in a floral landscape 2015 etching Artist Proof 28.5 x 48.5 cm Up in the heavens 2015 linocut ed. 2/15 59.8 x 114.0 cm A lineage of forefathers 2015 linocut ed. 2/15 49.0 x 79.3 cm
A curious bunch of bits and bobs - Oceanic artefacts at the Australian Museum 2016 etching ed. 1/10 49.2 x 98.7 cm Picasso’s Lagau Minaral 2016 mixed media installation 240 x 240 x 240 cm Drafting our concoctions 2016 linocut ed. 1/15 59.5 x 111.4 cm Before the monsoonal onset 2016 mixed media wall sculpture 150 x 300 x 42 cm Usal - the seven sisters that play amongst the stars 2016 linocut mounted on canvas, stick chart sculpture and plastic objects ed. 1/10 100 X 230 X 10 cm Land Sea Sky - charting our place in the universe 2016 linocut ed. 1/10 99.2 x 193.7 cm Loans from the Australian Museum, Sydney Artists unknown Collection of 2 Breast Ornaments from Solomon Islands c. early 20th Century black pearl shell Dimensions various Acquired 1913 Artist unknown Forehead Ornament from Malaita, Western Province, Solomon Islands c. early 20th century black pearl shell and turtle shell 11 cm diameter x 1 cm Acquired 1921 Artist unknown Breast ring-ornament Solomon Islands c. early 20th century clamshell, woven natural fibre, pigment 11 cm diameter x 2 cm Acquired 1930
Artists unknown Collection of 6 bamboo containers, Bouganville- Buka c. early 20th century bamboo Dimensions various Artist unknown Collection of 6 Arrows from Mer (Torres Strait Island) c. early 19th century reed, fibre, resin, leather Dimensions various Collected from Mer (Murray Island) Torres Strait by C.M. Lewis in 1836 Artist unknown Mask “buk” Saibai Island, Torres Strait pre 1884 wood, shell 67.0 x 24.7 x 23.0 cm Collected by Captain John Strachan in 1884 Loans from the collection of Ed Boylan, Cairns Artist unknown Shell Currency, Papua New Guinea date unknown conch shell, woven natural fibre, pigment 41 x 18 x 20.5 cm Artists unknown Collection of 3 Shell Currency date unknown clam shell Dimensions various Artist unknown Kwoma or Nukuma Dagger, Papua New Guinea c. 20th century cassowary bone, fibre, pigment 42 x 2.5 x 3.5 cm Artist unknown Yam fertility figure, Papua New Guinea c. 20th century wood, pigment 110 x 30.5 x 17 cm
Artist Unknown Clamshell Wealth Ring 1 (YUA), Arapesh people, Yangoru, Prince Alexander Mountains, Papua New Guinea c. 20th century clamshell 26 cm diameter x 2.5 cm Loans from the collection of George Craig, Green Island Artists Unknown Collection of 9 Ancestor figures from Papua New Guinea, Timor, Borneo, and Leti Island, Palau Alor Island, and Kisar Islands of Indonesia date unknown wood, pigment, shell Dimensions various Artist Unknown Spirit Figure East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea 20th century wood, pigment 101 x 40.5 x 7.5 cm Loans from the collection of Helen Dennett, Sydney Artist Unknown Tapa Cloth “Masi” Lau Island, Fiji 20th century bark, pigment 185.5 x 62 cm Loans from the collection of Brian Robinson Artists unknown Collection of 2 woven baskets from Papua New Guinea 20th century natural fibre and pigment Dimensions various
Loans from the collection of Chris Boylan, Sydney
Artist unknown Bamboo smoking pipe “waduru”, Fly River, Western Province, Papua New Guinea c. 19th century bamboo 57.0 x 6.0 cm Acquired 1886
Artist Unknown Clamshell Wealth Ring 2 (YUA), Arapesh people, Yangoru, Prince Alexander Mountains, Papua New Guinea c. 20th century clamshell 17 cm diameter x 2.7 cm
Artist unknown Smoking pipe, Papua New Guinea c. 19th century bamboo 71.5 x 7.0 cm Acquired 1893
Artist Unknown Giant Nassa Shell Ring “Loloi”, Tolai people, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea c. mid 20th century nassa shell, cane fibre 100 cm diameter x 11.5 cm
Sally Butler, (ed.) 2016 Brian Robinson: Pacific Crosscurrents, Cairns Regional Gallery, Cairns, Queensland ISBN 978-0-9757635-7-5 Writer and curator Sally Butler, Associate Professor in Art History, School of Communications & Arts, The University of Queensland Lenders Australian Museum, Sydney (Steven Alderton, Director, Programs, Exhibitions and Cultural Collections, and Dr Stan Florerk, Database Manager | Cultural Collections & Community Engagement) Michael Reid Gallery (Michael Reid) The Mossenson Galleries (Dianne Mossenson) Marineland Melanesia (George Craig) Ed Boylan Chris Boylan Helen Dennett
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Printing Elizabeth Hunter Theo Tremblay Djumbunji Press Framing Australian Art Frames Photography Michael Marzik CRG Staff Ashleigh Campbell, Curator Installation staff The artist wishes to thank family members Tanya Robinson Amber Robinson Raidon Robinson Leonardo Robinson ÂŠ Cairns Regional Gallery All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. The Cairns Regional Gallery gratefully acknowledges the support of the John Villiers Trust.