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Sewing the Crops and Reading the StarsTitle
Sewing the Crops and Reading the Stars

Location
In storage

Place of origin
Western Australia, Australia

Year
2018

Media
Painting

Medium
Enamel spray paint and liquitex paint marker

Dimensions
152 x 122 cm

Credit
Winner Calleen Art Award 2018

Accession number
CAL2018

Excerpt from The Calleen Collection by Peter Haynes (2019)

Brian Robinson was born in 1973 on Waiben (Thursday Island) in the Torres Strait and is a descendant of the Maluyigal/ Wuthathi/Dayak peoples. He received an Associate Diploma of Visual Arts (1994) and an Advanced Certificate in Visual Arts (1995) from the Cairns Campus of TAFE Queensland. From 1991 to 2010 he was employed in various capacities at the Cairns Regional Gallery, his last position being Exhibitions Manager/Deputy Director. From 2010 to the present he has worked as a professional artist. Robinson’s distinguished artistic career has seen him as a finalist or winner of many awards, prizes and commissions. These include the Collie Art Prize (2018), the Mandorla Art Award (2018), the Geelong Acquisitive Print Awards (2017), the Hazelhurst National Art on Paper Awards (2017), the Fremantle Print Award (2016), the National Works on Paper Award (2016), the Sunshine Coast Art Prize (2015), Western Australia Indigenous Art Award (2014), the Blake Prize for Religious Art (2011) and the Sheridan Mirage Port Douglas Art Prize (2008). In 1999 he was named as the Ten Queensland, Young Achiever of the Year (2000) for Regional Queensland. In 2018 Robinson was awarded a commission for the Commonwealth Games Athletes’ Parade Track Project Warwar Opening Ceremony. Since 2006 Robinson has held over 20 solo exhibitions throughout Australia and in Malaysia and Singapore. His extensive participation in group shows since 1994 has seen his work exhibited not only in Australia but also in New York, Washington, Berlin, Noumea and Monaco. His work is in many collections including the National Gallery of Australia; the Australian War Memorial; most State galleries; the Parliament House Collection, Canberra; and many regional, university and corporate collections in Australia and overseas.

Sowing the Crops and Reading the Stars is a visually rich and culturally layered painting. Robinson’s Torres Strait Islander heritage figures prominently in his art and its elision with his experience of contemporary popular culture, Western art practices and the importance of place, in combination form a unique and powerful aesthetic expression. The strong graphic elements that populate this work speak formally of the artist’s training as a printmaker and also underpin the narrative character of this and much of his work. The narrative is however not a linear one but rather a mélange of experiential influences that incorporates a range of identities and cultures that characterise Robinson’s pictorial language. The richly patterned background cites the lush vegetation of the artist’s original home as well as pointing to traditional Island gardening practices. The repetition of the floral pattern aligned with the circular motifs alludes to the cyclical rhythms of nature and their concomitant agricultural cycles. The figure of the powerfully-muscled gardener is beautifully achieved in its graphic outline. While he ostensibly sits apart from the floral ground he is also an integral part of that ground and in that personifies the ongoing influence of the land in giving reality to notions of cultural and artistic identity. Sowing the Crops and Reading the Stars is a complex work in which cultural traditions are acknowledged and expressed in a considered and resolved contemporary visual voice.