Brian Robinson, Bligh's encounter

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Edition of 30, 2011

Published by Djumbunji Press KickArts Fine Art Printmaking
Image size: 295 x 495 mm
Paper size: 353 x 780 mm
Paper: Hahnemuhle warm white
Ink: Charbonnel

Collaborative printer: Elizabeth Hunter
Editioning printer: Hannah Parker

Artist: Brian Robinson
Language: Kala lagaw ya 

Artwork statement: Following the HMS Bounty mutiny in 1789, Bligh, making was for Timor in an open boat, passed through the Strait north of POW [Prince of Wales Island]. Returning in 1792 on his way back from Tahiti, one of his ships, commanded by Lt. Portlock was attacked by canoes of Islanders as it sailed between Warrior and Dungeness Islands. One sailor was killed and several others wounded. The fierce warriors, disregarding the musket fire, turned on Bligh’s ship when in came to assist. Not until a shot from the ship’s cannon smashed the first canoe’s stern, did the Islanders retreat. Inevitably, increasing frequency of shipping through the Strait, combined with the area’s natural hazards and poor nautical charts, led to many disasters. Those who survived were likely killed by the Islanders following custom that prescribed death for strangers arriving from the sea, as was the fate of the crew and passengers aboard the Charles Eaton in 1834. 

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 early twentieth century 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.