Exhibition: Adrift 1999, Elliott Brown Gallery, Seattle, Washington USA.
Article: by Tina Oldknow

From the conception the increase.
From the increase the swelling.
From the swelling the thought.
From the thought the remembrance.
From the remembrance the desire.

Traditional Maori poem

First published in London by Richard A. Taylor in his 1870 book, Te Ika a Maui: New Zealand and Its Inhabitants, this creation poem, which maps the development of consciousness, offers an appropriate metaphor for the recent explorations of New Zealand artist, Ann Robinson. In her exhibition, Adrift, Robinson introduces new, kiln-cast crystal forms that map the development of her evolving artistic consciousness. "Adrift has been an evolutionary process", writes Robinson. "After twenty years of intense struggle to perfect my casting process, I found it necessary to set myself adrift, to immerse myself in the elements that I was strongly drawn to, not always understanding the reasons... to set myself adrift and find out where I wash up, what I have become."

Robinson's work is distinguished by the suffused light, evocative colours, and complex patterns, inspired by nature and Polynesian art, that is her New Zealand heritage. In Adrift, she has set aside her well-known vessel forms in favour of washed-up crustacean shells, long, abandoned seed pods, large, fallen leaves, and a huge, 130-pound bromeliad-inspired form Robinson calls Shield. The seed pods reflect the artist's love of the simple and lovely flax plant, the ancient source of linen and paper, while the leaf forms recall the prehistoric puka, a strong and resilient plant with tough, shiny leaves that Robinson finds affinity with. New Zealand's geographic isolation may be appreciated by the fact that some 84 percent of the country's vegetation is found nowhere else, and that New Zealand's native flora includes two of the world's oldest known plants, one of which is the puka. The puka, Robinson notes, is one of the few plant species that can endure the "battering gales of the Tasman Sea, a wild, wild sea".

Battered, buffeted, tossed up, adrift off on an isolated island shore, the reality of this experience can be physical as well as philosophical for New Zealand-dwellers. Robinson's group of three footless pods, titled Adrift, summarize her present state of mind, referring to no specific plant, but to the idea of voyages, being washed up on a far shore, and taking root in a new land, physically - as European New Zealanders have done - and philosophically. With their exotic shapes, soft colours, and warm surfaces, the strange and beautiful crystal pods are the luminous seeds of an artistic flowering, free-floating on waters both familiar and exotic.



Statement by Ann Robinson:
Exhibition Adrift 2001 at Elliott Brown Gallery, Seattle, Washington USA

Drift. n. that which washes up.
Drift. v. to drift. a metaphor for a state of mind?

This work takes its point of departure from the vessels that I have been developing over the last 20 years. It is motivated by a desire to move from the formal constraints that the vessel imposes. Tired of inflicting my will on the objects I make, of allowing the demands of function to take priority, and resisting the certainty of the foot and the lip, I prefer to explore form simply to come to a fuller understanding of it. To explore the connections between form and personal meaning. To understand that the pairing of these works, the way they lie lightly on the surface, are a comment on my experience of relationship.

The inner nomad needs to be free to respond to subconscious forces, forces that lead to unexpected shores.

The works that have started to emerge still bare many of the elements that have always been constant in my work. Erosion and erosive processes, repetitive pattern, massive scale, light within form and light diffused by surface treatment, the skin, aging and scarring.

An exciting journey. Unexpectedly insecure, technically challenging, and personally liberating.

January, 2001