Brian Robinson is a multi-skilled artist who produces paintings, sculptures and prints. He grew up surrounded by his rich Kala Lagaw Ya cultural traditions in the Torres Strait. Although initially appearing like so many prints done by Torres Strait Islander artists, Robinson’s work differs.
The intricate lines in his As the rains fell and the seas rose blur the boundaries of traditional and contemporary culture. Robinson’s skill as a carver is particularly evident in this work, a contemporary version of the long march to a modern-day Noah’s ark.
This biblical story is told with a contemporary twist, featuring an unusual band of travellers. Several Torres Strait Islander warriors guard the rear of the procession of the pop‑culture characters Mickey Mouse, Batman, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Alien, Goop from Ben 10, Predator, Wall-E and a flying Astro Boy. The passengers, although singular and not paired, are almost camouflaged among the leaf-like swirls and patterns, perhaps alluding to the turbulent waters to come.
The incoming wave references the famous Hokusai woodblock print Under a Wave off Kanagawa c 1830–32. The central lower ark, with light shining from the windows, sets sail on calm waters; the heavens are bright with stars to help navigate the boat to unknown territories. Roman numerals pepper the work; above, the numerals one to six are paired with traditional headdresses (dhoeri or dari) from various islands in the Torres Strait.
This intriguing and multi-faceted work develops the Gallery’s collection of prints from the Torres Strait, adding Robinson’s distinctive blend of tradition and pop culture.
Tina Baum Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art
in artonview, issue 71, Spring 2012