Peter Robinson: Fieldwork


3 March – 13 May 2018

Curated by Khye Hitchcock, Paula Orrell and Bruce E. Phillips


CoCA is proud to present the first solo exhibition at the gallery by Auckland-based artist Peter Robinson. For this exhibition, Robinson is developing a new body of work that will sprawl through CoCA's galleries. Delicate sculptural forms made of everyday artist studio materials - including wood, wire, paper, metal, nails and magnets - contribute to a visual language that will unfold and repeat throughout the space.  

Widely recognised as one of Aotearoa New Zealand's leading contemporary artists, Robinson's work has been exhibited extensively nationally and internationally. Robinson also has a strong connection to the Canterbury region being of Kāi Tahu descent, born in Ashburton and as a graduate of Ilam School of Fine Arts at the University of Canterbury. He was New Zealand’s representative at the 49th Venice Biennale (2001), participated in the 13th Istanbul Biennale (2013), 11th and 18th Biennale of Sydney (1998/2012) and the 8th Baltic Triennale of International Art, Vilnius (2002). Robinson was nominated for the Walters Prize in 2006 for The Humours at Dunedin Public Art Gallery, and again in 2008 when he won for his exhibition ACK at Artspace, Auckland.



Opening Speech 

Bruce E. Phillips, 2 March 2018

The year is 4000 AD and humans have evolved the ability to perceive an unmediated experience of the world. These humans ‘live in a world of only colour, light, space, time, sounds and movement’. Because of this they have no need for art, science and politics.

This imagined future comes from Stanley Brouwn's 1964 manifesto. Brouwn's 4000 AD is a wild concept for us to comprehend, because in 2018 AD we are busy distracting ourselves from real experience with digital and financial abstractions — that distort our perception and feed our anxieties. 

Peter Robinson’s expansive installation Fieldwork (2018) proposes a way to navigate this tension between the abstract and concrete reality. Peter has developed a type of language of repeating materials, shapes, forms, surfaces and colours that are improvised in concert with the building, creating a continuous spatial composition. But it is a language which can’t be translated, only experienced. As artist Fernanda Gomes explains, artworks like this aim ‘to keep words out of things, [and] to create a language without words.’  

For example, as you walk amongst Fieldwork you will find it has abstract significance as much as it has concrete presence. There are some familiar objects: like pins, nails, staples and springs. These objects have tangible use-value but are caught up in a spatial drawing that renders them beyond their use. There are industrial magnets that look like minimalist cylindrical forms but actually hold literal power. Feildwork also contains moments where the material takes on unexpected qualities. The hanging grids droop like string but yet are made of stiff thin rod. Another use of steel rod, this time a glistening scattering on the floor, appears to be curved and flowing but yet is straight and inert. Here our real perception of these materials is pushed and pulled between the abstract and the concrete. 

Movement and time is also important in experiencing Feildwork. Be mindful of your movement and your sense of time as you move about. Follow the work as it scribes and scribbles throughout the space. By doing so, you might find a pace and rhythm with the very same spatial influence that dictates your own presence in the building.

And as you are navigating suspended wire grids or avoiding a ball of pins on the floor, keep an eye out for repeating notations of shapes and colours. These notations converse with the buildings own material language and there are many conversations taking place. There are sincere complements. There are little transgressions and moments of irony. Yet the conversation is also not just about material. The array of rainbow coloured rods in the “all gender” toilet downstairs is one example. Likewise, there are many conversations taking place between Peter and other artists across time — an art historian from any country would have a lively conversation amongst Fieldwork

Overall Peter Robinson’s vast sculptural installation asks us in 2018 to develop a literacy of spatial and material experience. Concrete reality contains a language that exists before politics, before economics, before culture and before the social.

Bruce E. Phillips