Some people like their art easy to consume, something recognisable, something safe. Julia Robinson doesn’t make art for those people. Robinson makes art that deliberately jars the sensibilities, both visually and physically. Robinson’s work recalls Lautréamont’s famous simile: “Beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella,” a description adopted by the surrealists whose work Robinson is so clearly indebted to.
Indeed, alongside a dollop of bizarre humour, there is an element of surreal beauty in these works. But there is also more than a hint of darker impulses. She is a vivisectionist of the macabre and, as she herself freely admits, she illustrates a keen interest in “the occult, superstition and rituals relating to the human experience of death”. She adds to this already heady mix “ideas of fecundity, virility,” pagan ritual, myths and legends, poetry, Biblical passages, fairy tales and European and Scandinavian folklore. She sees her newest works as characterised by “bawdiness and pagan iconography”.
Robinson continues: “The game of substituting parts becomes a process of material surgery. Using found or fabricated objects in lieu of body parts, I become a sort of butcher, slicing off bits deemed irrelevant or redundant. A lamp for a head, a tripod box for legs and body, skewers for tongues – these are all in a state of material make-believe – mimicking the thing they replace yet still retaining their authority and identity as discreet objects.”
Since graduating from the Adelaide Central School of Art in 2002, Robinson has exhibited regularly both in Adelaide and interstate. Recent exhibitions include One to rot and one to grow at the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Some to the stone at Anna Pappas Gallery and Latrobe Regional Gallery in Victoria and Damn your eyes at Greenaway Art Gallery back in Adelaide. CACSA published an accompanying monograph on Robinson with texts by CACSA curator Logan Macdonald and Art Gallery of South Australia’s Lisa Slade. This year in July, Greenaway presents a major solo exhibition of Robinson’s work for the South Australian Living Artists festival.
IMAGES COURTESY: THE ARTIST AND GAGPROJECTS | GREENAWAY ART GALLERY, ADELAIDE