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Toni Robertson

Australia b1953
Robertson studied fine arts at the University of Sydney. A printmaker and poster artist, she produced works in her studio in the Sydney suburb of Paddington and for various artist collectives. Eventually poisoned by the chemicals used in the 1970s and 80s to make posters, she was forced to give up artmarking. She has been professor and co-director of the Interaction Design and Human Practice Laboratory at the University of Technology Sydney since 2002, specialising in human-computer interaction.

The grenades are inside the frozen chickens 1976-77

The rise of political postermaking was a significant development in Australian art of the 1970s. It was the result of the increasing politicisation of Australian students and the development of screenprinting, which was cheaper and easier than traditional printmaking techniques.

Robertson was a member of the first major poster collective – Earthworks Poster Collective at the University of Sydney’s Tin Sheds art workshops. Along with other women artists, she introduced radical feminist issues into the collective mix. This screenprint is from her series Taking Marketown by strategy.

People and places

The Tin Sheds was an experimental art workshop that took its name from the corrugated iron sheds it occupied. Created in the 1960s for Sydney University art students to practise the techniques and theories they were learning, it soon became a site for radical art practices and ideas. From 1971 to 1979, Earthworks operated from the sheds. Inspired by poster art from revolutionary Russia and Europe in the 1930s, the collective created prints with a socio-political, left-wing/anarchist message. Although they often worked anonymously, members included Colin Little, Mitch Johnson, Chips Mackinolty and Mark Arbuz as well as Toni Robertson. Today, the place is known as the Tin Sheds Gallery, housing a contemporary exhibition space with artist workshops upstairs.