Art New Zealand – James Robinson ‘EDGELAND’ review

Jasmine Gallagher reviews James Robinson‘s exhibition ‘EDGELAND– the unsayable being said over and over… response works to David Eggleton’s poetry in the latest Art New Zealand Summer issue.

The artworks in ‘EDGELAND’ often feel like a sea of words, with Eggleton’s poems written liberally onto some of the canvasses. This oceanic aspect of the show is extended through its title: the act of referring to the edge of land brings to mind coastlines and the isolation of island, of the idea of living on the periphery. This taps into the rich found of New Zealand art history, albeit one that might seem somewhat passé in its shameless romanticism and links to the cultural nationalist era (an era when poetry and painting has much fruitful collaboration).
The oceanic is also present in the materials themselves, which are stitched or glued onto the canvas. For example, the largest work A language older than words features shells, driftwood, stones and other detritus, which are harshly sanded back in places to flatten and reveal the inner workings of these resources. The seashells in particular then divulge an intricate pattern of cells that are replicated by the use of string, nails, cotton lace, velvet, knotted denim, hessian sack, a doll’s head, metal zips and other miscellaneous debris in other areas. ‘A language older that words’ hangs down in 72 sections reminiscent of flayed flesh, with the canvas also burnt here and there, hinting at an essential struggle inherent to the process of creation.