The title of Julia Robinson’s latest body of work, The Song of Master John Goodfellow, refers to French Renaissance writer Francois Rabelais’s notorious satirical novels The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel. Like the novels, which were shocking at the time because of their bawdy humour and carnivalesque tone, Robinson’s works are playful and surprising.
The Song of Master John Goodfellow is irreverent and theatrical, drawing on stories and time-honoured customs linking humans to nature.
Robinson is particularly fascinated by how we react to sex and death and through her work she explores fear, religion and ritual. In this new body of work she presents the contrasting reactions of celebration and openness and oppression and concealment.
Robinson’s sculptural works often fuse together materials which seem odd in their pairing. Here she combines plant forms (gourds) with practices of costuming and adornment, as well as ancient agricultural tools like the sickle, exploring themes of fecundity, ritual and the cycle of the seasons.
The sculptures come to life with anthropomorphic qualities, blurring the line between humans and nature. The gourds take on the forms of the human body, perhaps suggesting human dominance over nature or vice versa.
The phallic gourds are initially a little shocking as in the work Morning Song in which a gourd protrudes through the garment in an overtly sexual way, or Snood in which the gourd wears a chiffon sheath resembling a prophylactic.
It’s Robinson’s unusual combination of materials that is fascinating and draws the audience into a world where fairy tales and folklore have been re-worked and recontextualised with a playful and cheeky presentation that gives them a modern twist.
Robinson recently won her first South Australian Living Artists (SALA) award, The Advertiser Contemporary Art Award of $5000 for the most outstanding work in any medium, for her work Rutting Creature 1.
Julia Robinson: The Song of Master John Goodfellow
27 July – 28 August