The Cowra Regional Art Gallery received over 200 entries from around Australia for the ‘2018 Calleen Art Award’. Forty-six finalists were chosen and one winner announced – Cairns-based artist Brian Robinson.
Robinson received the $20,000 award at the exhibition opening at the Gallery on Saturday 5 May 2018. The winning work, Sowing The Crops and Reading the Stars (2018), is characteristic of the artist’s graphic style, strongly informed by his background growing up on the Torres Strait Islands located between New Guinea and the tip of Cape York Peninsula.
‘The winner is an interesting picture,’ said Award Judge, Michael Hedger, Director Manly Art Gallery and Museum; ‘with a wonderful patterning background and figure over the top as well as a blend of various Asian styles, showing the rendition of ancient crafts.’
In a statement accompanying the work, Robinson states that the painting references the traditional gardening practices that occurred throughout the Torres Strait as well as the abundant plant life and blooms that are found growing everywhere in profusion. Skill in gardening was and still is dependent on understanding the four seasons including knowledge of the movement of stars and constellations, tidal patterns, and the migration of birds and certain sea creatures.
Agricultural fertility also entails a respect for inherited ancestral land and knowledge of how to influence rainfall and the growth of plants through actions, words, songs and the use of figures and stones.
Cosmology, particularly star constellations were of significant importance to the people who used them to encode nature’s relative predictability into mythological narratives like Usiam, a cluster of seven stars that are more commonly known as Pleiades or the Seven Sisters. These narratives epitomise the cosmology or sense of understanding of one’s place in the universe.
Highly Commended Awards went to Shannon Doyle for her work Power Struggle (2017) and Geoff Harvey for his work Ash Landscape (2017).
The ‘2018 Calleen Art Award Exhibition’ runs until 10 June 2018.