Robin Astley’s large-scale works on paper are an intricate meditation on war, conflict and the impossible notion of victory. Harnessing the codes and visual aesthetics of a ‘military genre’, Astley’s life-sized, archetypal figures float somewhere between the surreal and the real. Her subjects are tattooed with the remains of war – military motifs are literally etched across their bodies; indelible imprints upon the psyche and human form. Historical figures, such as Joan of Arc and Napolean, also appear within this realm, shifting against vast, mural-like backdrops of highly-detailed patterning. As intrusions from another time, these historical protagonists silently weave new versions of the past in which causes and effects are tangled and unraveled.
The new series of paintings incorporates a variety of techniques, including etching imagery into wet paint over dry background. Working in pencil, ink and acrylic, Astley simultaneously creates new surfaces and exposes multiple layers beneath. These are intense, emotionally charged images that operate as conduits for mourning and as allegories for the sacrifice of human life in the arena of war.
A limited edition catalogue featuring the new paintings with accompanying text by Melbourne writer Christos Tsiolkas will also be available from the gallery during the exhibition.
Robin Astley is a Melbourne-based artist regularly exhibiting in solo and group exhibitions. Her works are featured in private collections in Australia and she has been a finalist in major prizes including Hutchins Works on Paper, the Blake Prize 2009 Director’s Cut and the RM McGivern Prize.