Thursday 22 June, 6pm
23 June – 14 July
Hybridising naturally occurring plant forms with practices of costuming and adornment, Long Ballads explores themes of fecundity, ritual and the cycle of the seasons. Collectively the work takes its cues from a range of rituals that affirm life and ward off death, many of which are still performed in England and across Europe today. These performances involve elaborate costumed characters and are boisterous, bawdy and aggressive, frequently invoking the phallus as a symbol of virility.
Long Ballads is a playful meditation on such rituals with an emphasis on the gourd: a peculiar vegetable that is strikingly phallic and has many auspicious connotations due to its affluence of seeds, fast growth rate and refusal to rot. In a Biblical context, it may be emblematic of eternal life, while in Chinese culture it is associated with fertility, release and a plethora of progeny.
At the heart of this exhibition is a playfulness centred around these qualities of the gourd and its capacity to be interpreted both light-heartedly and with sincerity. An aesthetic derived from ceremonial vestments and Elizabethan era clothing flavours the work. The laborious and materially consumptive technique of hand-sewn smocking implies indulgence while the lovingly tailored augmentations are intended to be equal parts playful and delicately rude. The works may also be thought of as paraphernalia or props for a set of unspecified rituals of the artist’s own devising.
While the work is characterised by a bawdy sense of humour, as with many things that make us laugh, it is also intended to be taken seriously. The bawdiness becomes a point of departure from which Robinson extrapolates on the themes of death, the afterlife, and resurrection.
Julia Robinson is a South Australian visual artist working in the field of sculpture and installation. Her work reflects an interest in religion, the afterlife and death and how humans address these concerns through ritual. Drawing on established belief systems and a multitude of sources including myths, fairy tales and European superstition and folklore, Robinson’s work explores our discomfort with the finality of death. Recent works have invoked fertility rituals and motifs of resurrection and are infused with an air of sexual candour.
Since graduating from Adelaide Central School of Art Robinson has exhibited regularly and been the recipient of a number of grants and awards. Recent exhibitions include Versus Rodin: Bodies across space and time and Dark Heart: 2014 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia; The Song of Master John Goodfellow, Greenaway Art Gallery; Structure for navigating an unknown afterlife, Art Pod; and One to rot and one to grow, Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia. She currently lectures at Adelaide Central School of Art. Her work is held in the Art Gallery of South Australia, Artbank and private collections.
Presented in partnership with ACE Open, Adelaide.