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From Here to Eternity
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Through her medium of acrylic and mixed-media on paper Robin Astley is a conjuror of personal yet seemingly universal narratives. These diminutive compositions remind one of life’s many mysteries, of small miracles, lost stories and complex personal conceits. One might easily imagine that these are votive works, painted to honour a saint or perhaps, they are coded esoterically with the arcana of an ancient and secret society. They are in fact the product of a 2st Century painter, and they remind us that our rich repository of symbols - those beasts and angels that dwell in the corners of the human psyche - are as much a part of our world as anything thrown up by our technological age. By the artist’s own accounting, such images emerge from processes of free association ignited by the act of painting. The result is something archaic. 

Like paintings unearthed from antiquity, they are equipped with codes that are readily familiar, even as they hold their mysteries within. In part, their dreaminess is made so by Astley’s production of indeterminate colour fields, which envelope her figures in a no-place of mists and veils. Here are paintings that are rich in symbolism and ambiguity. Art, after all, art in its proper sense, is more than the sum of its parts, more than its historical moment, and more expansive than the persona who brought it into being. As the title of this show – To Here From Eternity – suggests, what emerges in these paintings are not the incidents of daily life, though such occurrences are by no means excluded as possibilities, but something that is vastly old and lingering in our consciousness, and through which we might connect with histories that are deeper than our immediate experience of time.


Dr Damian Smith (PhD RMIT, MA Art.Cur Uni Melb, Pgrad Art.Hist Uni Melb, BFA RMIT) is a curator, art historian and academic whose interests include contemporary Australian art, contemporary Chinese art, and expanded curatorial practice.

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