Peter Robinson

Article Bio Works Projects
crossroads:
identity, labelling, tradition
genre(subgenre):
Visual Arts (installation art, painting, sculpture)
region:
Australia and New Zealand, Europe, Western
country/territory:
New Zealand, Germany
created on:
August 6, 2003
last changed on:
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Article

Mockingly Maori

Government Graphic Design and the Representation of Cultural Identity

Peter Robinson was born in Ashburton, New Zealand, in 1966 and received a BFA from Ilam School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, in 1989. Of Maori descent, Robinson has critically explored issues of identity, ethnicity, and exoticism in his work, and has often provoked violent protest against the bold and bitterly ironic statements his works entail. For many years now, Robinson has been living and working in Berlin.
Many of Robinson’s works from the 1990s take the traditional Maori patterns and design elements as a starting point, and he often designs his works as a conscious response to recent waves of logo designs for government agencies that similarly but – uncritically –incorporate such patterns. In his multi-panel painting “Fish and Chips/Boy am I Scarred Eh/Our Place” (1998), Robinson responds to the logo of the newly opened Museum of New Zealand that was set up to promote bicultural partnership (between the Maori and the White populations.) The museum’s logo features a large drawing of a thumb print, also reminiscent of a drawn spiral, with the slogan “our place.” Robinson uses the design element of the spiral in one painting and combines it with the slogan “boy, am I scarred eh”, and, in another painting, he combines the slogan “our place” with the logo of a swastika. Similar appropriations and alterations have been incorporated into the installation “One Love” (1997), which consists of a large array of crudely produced protest signs, cut from cardboard and propped up as if positioned on a street corner. The signs all bear slogans that can be identified as racist, white, lower class sentiments expressing discontent with the recent recognition of Maori culture.

Robinson’s earlier “Percentage” paintings (1993) dealt in similar ways with questions of representation and cultural origins. One almost wall-size work reiterates a simple, loosely drawn figure of a koru, an elongated L-shaped symbol that is instantly recognized as Maori. More elegant and corporate versions of this figure appear in many of the government’s logos, and the ironic crudeness of Robinson’s use of this figure seems to play along with conceptions of a more popular application of the motif in Maori art.

In an untitled sculpture from 1994, Robinson plays out different elements of Maori culture. A model of a sports airplane is covered in white, red, and black wool blankets, a color scheme popular in Maori culture, and small gemstones. The plane, gemstones, and blankets all indicate different aspects of trade and economic exchange as the foundation of race relations between indigenous peoples and white settlers, a topic considered unfit for traditional Maori art. In another untitled work from 1994, Robinson continues these questions: An open wooden box, somewhere between a makeshift housing structure and a roadside sales shack, is placed in the center of the gallery and covered on the outside with handwritten signs in red, white, and black. Although seemingly poor and slummish, the box is in fact the shipping crate for a Japanese car, and thus part and parcel of advanced international capitalism.

Some of Robinson’s more recent works have continued his investigation into the corporate culture of logos and trademarks and their contested traces of cultural residue. “The Big Bang White Head” (1998) is a vast black panel that is carefully decorated with small-scale decals of logos and trademarks. But further inspection of these stickers reveals that they are completely nonsensical; the head of Mickey Mouse is combined with the slogan “Shickey Mickey owes Doytchland”, or a fishnetted, high-heeled woman whose leg is decorated with the words, “the medium is the message.” And for his installation “In Search of an Umworld” (1998), Robinson covered an elevated white surface with myriads of small cut-out logos and figures, creating an apocalyptical landscape of corporate logos, action and comic heroes, and the visual trash of modern society.
Author: Christian Rattemeyer

Bio

*1966 in Ashburton, New Zealand.
He received a BFA from Ilam School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, in 1989.
He lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

Works

Selected group exhibitions (choice)

Exhibition / Installation,
2000
2000 Partage d’exotismes Biennale d’art contemporain de Lyon 2000, Lyon, France Continental shift Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen, Germany (toured to Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, The Netherlands; Stadsgalerij, Heerlen, The Netherlands; Musée d’Art moderne, Lüttich, Belgium) Heimat kunst Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany Drive: power, progress, desire Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand 1999 Kunstwelten im dialog Museum Ludwig, Köln, Germany Toi Toi Toi: three generations of artists from New Zealand Museum Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, New Zealand What I photographed this summer Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand 1998 Entropy zu Hause Suermondt-Ludwig Museum, Aachen, Germany Everyday 11th Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, Australia Necessary protection Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand Blood brothers Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand What we do here Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand 1997 Trade routes: history and geography 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, billboard and page art projects, Johannesburg, South Africa Seppelt Art Awards Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia McCahon to Robinson Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand Family values Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand 1996 Inklusion/Exklusion, Künsterlerhaus Graz, Ksln, Austria 23rd International Biennale of Sao Paulo Sao Paulo, Brazil 2nd Asia-Pacific Triennale of Contemporary Art Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia 1995 Cultural safety: contemporary art from New Zealand Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, Germany and City Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand (toured Ludwig Forum fur Internationale Kunst, Germany; Waikato Museum of Art and History, Hamilton and Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin, New Zealand) Hangover Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Waikato Museum of Art and History, New Zealand 1994 Localities of desire Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia Parallel lines: Gordon Walters in context Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand Art now Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Wellington, New Zealand Aoraki/Hikurangi McDougall Contemporary Art Annex, Christchurch, New Zealand 1993 Cartel Brooke-Gifford Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand Te Hau a Taonga Te Taumata Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand Groundswell Manawatu Art Gallery, Palmerston North, New Zealand 1992 Te Kupenga CSA Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand ARX 3 Artist Regional Exchange Institute of Contemporary Art, Perth, Australia Shadow of style: eight new artists City Gallery, Wellington and Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand Vogue/Vague CSA Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand A comfortable environment Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin, New Zealand Prospect Canterbury McDougall Contemporary Art Annex, Christchurch, New Zealand 1991 Kohia Ko Taikaka Anake National Art Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand Recognitions McDougall Contemporary Art Annex, Christchurch, New Zealand Peter Robinson, Euan McLeod and Shane Cotton Brooke-Gifford Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand He Toi Na Ngaa Toa O Te Whare Waanaga O Waitaha, School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand 1990 Goodman/Suter Biennale Suter Art Gallery, Nelson, New Zealand On task CSA Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand Te Atinga - contemporary Maori art Uenuku Marae, Moeraki, New Zealand

Selected solo exhibitions (choice)

Exhibition / Installation,
2000
2001 Divine comedy Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand 2000 No reading allowed here Kapinos Galerie für Zeitgenossische Kunst, Berlin, Germany The end of the twentieth century Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand 1999 Recent works Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand Point of infinite density McDougall Contemporary Art Annex, Christchurch, New Zealand 1998 I know nothing Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand The big crunch Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands 1997 NZPR Brooke-Gifford Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand Nice paintings Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand Canon fodder Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand 1996 Peter Robinson Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand Home and away Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand 1995 Opus operandi Ghent, Belgium Bad Aachen ideas Ludwig Forum fur Internationale Kunst, Aachen, Germany 1994 100% Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand 1993 9 Paintings of 1993 Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand 1992 The spaces between Brooke-Gifford Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand 1990 Nature, forms, myth Last Decade Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand (with Shane Cotton)

Projects

This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

Homeland Art (HeimatKunst)

Cultural Diversity in Germany

(01 April 00 - 02 July 00)