The bright red and sandy-coloured spirals in Peter Robinson’s big painting are like koru and kōwhaiwhai designs, but they have broken away from tradition. More like fingerprints or whirlpools, they could make you feel dizzy if you look at them for too long. Robinson uses red to speak – in a slightly cheeky way – about blood ties, with his 3.125 per cent of Māori (Ngai Tahu) ancestry highlighted in red and painted large.
This work satirises official attempts to ‘measure’ cultural identity through blood percentages. Peter Robinson’s own 3.125 percent of Mâori blood falls short of the suggested 6.25 percent requirement, but he challenges the thinking that would deny him his ancestral links. At the same time, the simplified aeroplane (shown in profile so it resembles a waka, or Mâori canoe) symbolises Robinson’s rapid career rise, which he suggests is attributable to the art world’s desire for political correctness as much as to his own artistic merit. Robinson has deliberately used the black, red and white of traditional Mâori art and the primitive, stylised feel of the painting suggests both ancient Mâori cave drawings and bold, often rather crudely handwritten, advertising posters or contemporary street art.
Robinson has Ngai Tahu and Pâkehâ ancestry and was born in Ashburton in Canterbury. He graduated from the University of Canterbury in 1989. Robinson has held several artist residencies in Germany and Australia and represented New Zealand at the Venice Biennale in 2001.