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Brian Robinson

BRIAN ROBINSON | 'Ilan mask I' | Etching / Two Colours

BRIAN ROBINSON | 'Ilan mask I' | Etching / Two Colours

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Etching printed in two colours from one plate with Chine Colle
Edition of 30, 2010
Published by Djumbunji Press KickArts Fine Art Printmaking
Image size: 180 x 490 mm
Paper size: 420 x 730 mm
Paper type: Hahnemuhle off white with Iwaki Chine Colle
Ink type: Charbonnel
Collaborative printer: Elizabeth Hunter
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: 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.

Masks constructed from turtleshell and wood were the most distinctive and highly embellished of all objects from the Torres Strait artisans. Turtleshell masks were a central component to ritual observance throughout most of the islands in the Western, Eastern and Central groups but the Top Western Islands also used wooden masks obtained via trade and exchange.

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