Malu Githalal en route to Monaco

CREATIVEMOVE is proud to announce the forthcoming major sculptural installation Malu Githalal by Brian Robinson on the exterior of the Musée Océanographique de Monaco from 24 March to 30 September 2016.

This work is part of a ground-breaking exhibition of contemporary art, Australie/Australia: Defending the Oceans at the Heart of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Art, which will be seen by over 500,000, mostly European, visitors during its season in Monaco. Robinson is one of six Australian Indigenous artists who have been invited to create major site-specific works for this international exhibition at the Museum that has previously exhibited the work of Damien Hirst, Huang Yong Ping, Mark Dion and Marc Quinn.

The exhibition is also one of the first recipients of Catalyst funding, through Suzanne O’Connell Gallery & Associates in partnership with Girringun Aboriginal Corporation, announced on 2 February 2016 by the Hon Mitch Fifield, Federal Minister for the Arts. The overall project is being organised by Paris-based curator and director, Stéphane Jacob (Arts d’Australie – Stéphane Jacob Gallery) and Brisbane-based Suzanne O’Connell Gallery. Each of the 50 invited artists will respond to the subject of oceans, biodiversity, and environmental preservation.

In his announcement, Minister Fifield said, “The project will strengthen Australia’s reputation as a sophisticated and artistic nation and forge new relationships with French cultural institutions.” The project is also supported by the Australia Council for the Arts and the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland. The show will be opened by H.S.H. Prince Albert II, who is an active patron of contemporary art and environmental preservation and whose great-grandfather founded the Musée Océanographique in 1910.

Robinson, whose recent practice has seen a flowering of public artworks throughout Australia, will have his sculptural installation featured on the historic museum’s façade. Utilising the traditional incised design seen in Torres Strait Islander lino prints, Robinson has created three vibrantly colourful crabs, titled Malu Githalal. These will operate as the opening statement to the larger exhibition and as a teaser to draw audiences in to see it. Each crab (or githalai) explores the symbols of Robinson’s ancestral connections to the coastal fauna found through the regions’ mangrove areas, foreshore, estuaries, and outer barrier reef.

Robinson has described his early crabbing experiences to Dr Sally Butler, saying, “Usually the crabs, dark grey in colour, would scatter across the surface of the submerged mudflats upon your arrival, and it would be your job to scoop them up—quickly. But occasionally they would retaliate and come charging back, claws at the ready. This is when you hoped for a close-by boat for a quick get-away. After some hours, when enough githalai were caught, we would return home, tying up the front claws of each crab with sturdy twine, first to limit their escape and secondly to avoid injury from their small but powerful vice-like grip!”

A north Queenslander by virtue of his Torres Strait Islander heritage and residence in Cairns, Robinson is known for his ability to combine organic and manmade elements into a unique fusion that speaks to both popular culture and art history, to his own heritage, and to broad contemporary interests. He is considered among the most innovative artists of his generation, given that his work incorporates the traditions and styles of the Torres Strait, but also the influence of Western art history and wide-ranging graphic traditions.

A constant in Robinson’s practice is his insistence on being defined as an artist as much as an Indigenous artist, and his aesthetic influences are broadly drawn. Colour, shape and movement, together with influences as varied as comics, toys and popular culture, are visible. While best known for highly coloured, exuberant wall sculptures, he acknowledges, “I absorb from the entire spectrum. I am interested in really minute detail but also large buildings and architecture. I draw on mythology worldwide and make comparisons, parallels that cross over in all those different cultures.”

Louise Martin-Chew for CREATIVEMOVE

Media: Gabrielle Wilson, The Press Society

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Brian Robinson, 'Malu Githalal (detail)' (rendering), aluminium honeycomb composite panel, 2016 © Brian Robinson and CREATIVEMOVE / © Photo: TILT Industrial Design and The Artificial Brian Robinson, 'Githalai I' (rendering), aluminium honeycomb composite panel, 260 x 400 x 100 cm, 2016, Edition of 3 © Brian Robinson and CREATIVEMOVE / © Photo: TILT Industrial Design and The Artificial