David Eggleton on James Robinson in Art New Zealand
Laying Face-Down On the Earth
Recent Artworks by James Robinson
David Eggleton in Art New Zealand #183, Spring 2022
“Painting and poetry have a strong interrelationship in the New Zealand arts and in Edgeland James Robinson continues this tradition through an engagement with the work of the current New Zealand Poet Laureate David Eggleton. Robinson has worked with Eggleton’s poetry in the past, so this is not a new aspect of his oevre, but rather a two-way response that has been bubbling away for a while now. For example, Eggleton wrote a series of sonnets to accompany Robinson’s work in 2003, and Robinson’s art has featured on the cover of several of Eggleton’s poetry collections..”
–Jasmine Gallagher, Art New Zealand Summer 2020
To paint words is to make them magical, talismanic; it also makes them sensuous – haptic, almost touchable as things seperate from what they signify.
In late 2020 Robinson presented a show entitled EDGELAND (… the unsayable being said over and over) at PG gallery 192 in Christchurch.This show consisted of a variety of work, partly in response to my book Edgeland and other poems, and incorporating stray lines and sometimes whole poems into mixed-media works, but also functioning as explorations of Robinson’s own preoccupations with time, cause and effect, chaos, entropy, regeneration of the planet. The lines taken from my poems are in effect just another layer in an archaeological midden. The visual density of any given Robinson artwork confirms that this methodology seeks to make not just the world, but worlds, visible. He is the artist as alchemist, as digger and miner, as salvage merchant and dumpster diver, as faux-naif protester and mock-entomologist. The central artwork in this exhibition was the 72-piece A Language Older than Words (2020), stretching along a wall, gnomic and laden, a tone-painting the dominant mood of which seemed to be a brooding melancholy, the work’s encrusted surfaces reminiscent of desiccated cocoons, or perhaps broken-open chrysalises, the bundled relics of long-ago religious ceremonies for a god that failed. Such a work implies that Robinson’s art made out of rubbish is intended to represent rubbish, or rather the immanence, the aura, still residing in discarded things. Here is art of the anthropocene, envisaged in some distant hereafter: unsustainable consumption’s mummified remains.