At PICA we recognise that we are situated within the unceded lands of the Whadjuk people of the Noongar Nation. We pay our respects and offer our gratitude to Elders past and present, and to those emerging leaders in the community. We acknowledge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the importance of their care and continued connection to culture, community and Country.

Always was, always will be.

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Robert Andrew
Held within a word

Robert Andrew – Held within a word

Held within a word by Meanjin (Brisbane)-based artist Robert Andrew combines kinetic installations with programmable technologies and natural materials such as wood, stone, ochres and soil. A descendant of the Yawuru people whose Country is of the Broome region of the Kimberley, Western Australia, Andrew’s installations are expressions of experiences deeply rooted in his own family’s history and his ongoing recovery of knowledge about his family and identity. 

Aboriginal languages occupy a central place in Andrew’s work and for his new installation at PICA he treats the gallery walls as a writing surface. Over several weeks, suspended objects move and interact to create an ever-evolving, ever-building ‘landscape’. The movements of strings, rocks and charcoal follow a pattern directed by words in Noongar that are slowly outlined on a mechanical plotter. The resulting gestural ‘topography’ bears no trace of the text that drives its formation yet is inherently embedded in ancient knowledge systems.   

Robert Andrew challenges the use of the English language, and the act of writing itself, as a colonial tool, relinquishing control to produce artworks that embrace uncertainty and ambiguity. In the artist’s own words, ‘I do this to claim my language and to tell stories in my own way.’ Through a complex choreographing of mechanisms and materials, he creates visual, aural and linguistic experiences that forge new connections between image and text, language and identity, history and now. 

Supported by PICA’s Art Commissioners

About the Artists

Robert Andrew 

Born in 1965 in Perth, Robert Andrew is a descendant of the Yawuru people, whose Country is the lands and waters of the Broome area in the Kimberley region, Western Australia. Andrew completed a Bachelor of Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art in 2012 at the Queensland College of Art (QCA), accepting his Fine Art Honours in 2013. He completed his doctorate in Visual Arts in 2019 and is currently undertaking a Post-Docoral Fellowship at QCA, Griffith University. Robert has exhibited widely throughout Australia including MONA, Hobart (solo exhibition) (2022); 23rd Biennale of Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2022); TarraWarra Museum of Art, TarraWarra, Victoria (2021); ACCA, Melbourne, Victoria (2020 – 21); IMA Brisbane, Queensland (solo exhibition) (2019); Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney (2019); Latrobe Regional Gallery, Morwell, Victoria (2019); Museum of Brisbane, Queensland (2017); National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2016); Cairns Regional Gallery, Queensland (2014). Robert Andrew is represented by Milani Gallery, Brisbane.


Presented in association with Perth Festival




Held within a world is supported by PICA’s Art Commissioners. 

Image: Robert Andrew, Tracing Inscriptions, 2020, installation view, Overlapping Magisteria: The 2020 Macfarlane Commissions, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne Photo: Andrew Curtis