Onespace’s second exhibition profiles recent work by celebrated Torres Strait Islander artist Brian Robinson. It is also Robinson’s first ever solo show in Brisbane.
Robinson’s exhibition, Myth & Marvel, a series of dramatic linocut prints, describes the unique cultural fusion in which he works. This lively and imaginative aesthetic has marked Robinson’s mature artistry, which combines mythology from all over the world with Marvel super heroes. It is compelling viewing, dark, exuberant and alive. Its undercurrent is suggestive that, in a period of division, peoples all over the world share more than they don’t. Eclectic sources render the power of popular culture a curious equal to that of the traditional legends that have defined us.
These linocuts combine his two dominant themes. In Lineage of Forefathers, a skull that refers to the head-hunting practices of his Torres Strait Islander ancestors is cradled in the hand of a Thor style superhero. In another, You will travel in a land of Marvels, cupid emerges from Torres Strait Islander patterns, looping the Superman motif to other stylised Marvel and DC symbols.
He says, “I draw on mythology worldwide and make parallels that cross different cultures. Objects and themes from Torres Strait myths are mixed with other well-known narratives, and legends like the Noah’s Ark and the great foods, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Adam and Eve. These works were made from 2011 to the present, and include new works that haven’t been seen outside of Cairns.”
Ever since he was a boy – sitting in a Catholic church, looking around at biblical narratives – an interest in the Western art historical tradition has driven his aesthetic explorations. Influences as varied as comics, toys and popular culture, are visible, combined through his, “weird and wonderful imagination… I’m just a big kid really”.
One of the most infuential artists of his generation, important international recognition has come in 2016 with his spectacular Malu Githalayl (colourful patterned giant crabs) installed on the exterior of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco as part of the major exhibition, Our AUSTRALIA: Defending the Oceans at the Heart of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Art (March-September 2016). Also in the world view is Robinson’s monumental six metre by eleven metre Citizens Gateway (currently under development), which will be at the heart of a project for the newly formed global social movement, Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef. To be sited on the Cairns Esplanade, this major public sculpture will acknowledge the cultural and environmental importance of the reef with a global audience.
It has been an electrifying finale to his stellar 2016. Robinson said, “It is a fantastic ride I must say – and the year hasn’t ended yet… more work to ponder, concoct and create.”
A constant in Robinson’s practice is an insistence on being seen as an artist (rather than an Indigenous artist). “I absorb from the entire spectrum of visual paraphernalia that the world offers.”
Myth & Marvel is the second exhibition since Onespace Gallery opened with institutional and commercial support and acclaim on 11 November 2016. CREATIVEMOVE has represented Brian Robinson since 2012 and is delighted to continue to support his innovative practice as both an exhibiting artist and in the public art realm. Directors John Stafford and Jodie Cox said, “There are other major international opportunities in the wings for Brian Robinson. We know already that he will have an even bigger 2017.”
Image: Brian Robinson, Warriors, Sorcerers + Spirits (detail), 2015, linocut printed in black ink on paper, 60.5cm x 114 cm, edition 3 of 15