Peter Robinson is one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, with a practice that includes sculpture, drawing, painting and printmaking. Continually shifting his approach to his use of materials and techniques, as well as the content he addresses, his oeuvre is unified by an anti-art aesthetic. Robinson’s practice has gradually shifted from the political rhetoric of his early work by becoming increasingly focused on materiality, form and space. Recent large scale installations and sculptural pieces, cut from polystyrene, fill the space with a sense of awe and wonder.
For Essential Security, 2011 Robinson manipulates and distorts forms commonly associated with exhibitions, conventions and museums. Over the past two years, he has explored objects used to protect art, and through creative placement, subtle distortion and witty repetition, he reinvigorates these objects granting them new status as the artwork itself.
During his time in Europe in late 2009, Robinson became fascinated by museums’ excessive use of barriers. He documented this absurd overuse of chains, signs and plinths, locating spaces where museums would accumulate an abundance of these, which were often in locations where there were no artworks needing to be secured.
For recent installations at The Centre for Drawing in London and later at the Hong Kong International Art Fair, Robinson presented signage, stanchions, morphed posts and peculiarly altered plinths all created in crisp white polystyrene. Presented on mass and spilling out across the space, these works no longer fulfilled their everyday purpose to restrict the viewer, enforce a border and overtly secure a space. Here, these beautifully crafted objects were fragile and cautiously inviting. Extending this series, earlier this year Robinson’s installation Cache for the Christchurch Art Gallery, marked a pivotal move in his practice with the introduction
of steel. Blocks, columns and cases of polystyrene were interspersed with black metal chains, rails and stanchions.
This current body of work has a heightened unnerving sense with priority now given to the use of steel. The polystyrene, a material commonly used to protect objects, evokes a sense of fragility with its soft, pristine surface which is now boldly interrupted by rods of metal slicing through the space. The black metal is threatening in its unstable appearance with sections distorted and curled, and this lack of order intensifies a sense of vulnerability.
The elegance of form and considered placement of objects coupled with the striking contrast of black against white creates a seductive environment. The original purpose of these forms remains evident when entering the space and the audience is enticed to breach security as the objects playfully push and pull; both to allure and intimidate.
Robinson has exhibited extensively internationally, exhibitions of note include: The Influence of Anxiety, The Centre for Drawing Project Space, London 2010; Snow Ball Blind Time, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand in 2008; Ack, Artspace, Auckland, New Zealand 2006; The Humours, Walters Prize, Auckland Art Gallery, 2006; Three Colours (with Gordon Bennett) at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne and the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane,
Australia, 2004-2005; bi-polar, 49th Venice Biennale, Italy, 2001; Divine Comedy, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, 2001; Superman in Bed – Collection Schürmann Kunst der Gegenwart und Fotografie, Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund, Germany, 2001. In 2009 Peter Robinson participated in the ArtSpace Studio Residency Program, Sydney, which was followed by his Polymer Monoliths exhibition at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane. In 2008 Peter Robinson was awarded the prestigious Walters Prize, Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand.