By virtue of this act I hereby take possession of this land

Brian ROBINSON: artist

Not On Display

About the work

Artist Statement

By virtue of this act I hereby take possession of this land

The planting of the English flag on Possession Island at the tip of Cape York Peninsula just before sunset on the 22nd of August 1770 is a defining moment in Australian history. From this small island on the edge of Torres Strait, Lieutenant James Cook in his ship the Endeavour declared the coast [that he just sailed along] British territory in the name of King George III. Cook wrote in his journal –

I now once more hoisted English colours and in the name of His Majesty King George the Third take possession of the whole Eastern Coast of this majestic land by the name New South Wales, together with all the bays, harbours, rivers and islands situated upon the said coast.

Little did he know that Possession Island known as Bedhan Lag was already habited by the Kaurareg, a group of Lower Western Torres Strait Islanders, the Kaywalagal people who occupied the inner islands including, Ngurupai, Waiben, Muralag, Kiriri, Zuna, Tarilag and Mipa.

One of the features of this print is a cursive and rhythmic patterned background referred to as minaral. The inscribed lines that meander and curl across the linocut relates to a much older tradition of decorative carving and etching. The spiralling, tapering and tight linear folding produces an optical vibration that can serve a number of purposes – denoting ancestral presence in the here-and-now, indicating latent or active elemental or spiritual forces, or representing the rippling sea, buffeting wind or starlit sky, all so critical to the nautical traveller, hunter or fisherman.

The addition of the space invaders that creep in and occupy the top of the print reinforces the concept of invasion by alien forces. Since the European invasion of Australia in 1788, the indigenous custodians of the land have been oppressed into a world unnatural to their existence for thousands of years. The colonists who came with the first influx of settlers were led to believe that the land was terra nullius [no one’s land].
By virtue of this act I hereby take possession of this land
Artist/Maker and role
Brian ROBINSON: artist
linocut on paper
72.3 x 45.0cm
Credit line
Purchased 2018
The State Art Collection, The Art Gallery of Western Australia
Accession number

This is one of the prints in our collection.