I was intrigued to hear him talk about his creative practice and the work he does at MADA as I find him and his practice irreverent, fun and enjoyable. He puts the childish, high spirited and delightful playfulness into a serious artistic journey.
The front room exhibition space faces the street and has a large vista from the street and visibility for foot traffic, passers by in cars, and tram passengers. His diminutive figure is a self portrait or parody of the adult Ronnie dressed in a child’s batman onesie holding a microphone. The caption is YOU reinforced on a timber laser cutout board placed in a direct behind his head at the back of the front room.
His legs as placed in a spread eagled stance, one hand clutching a microphone, gaze directly ahead, a rather confrontational pose with the body protruding slightly forward. From distance the body looks childlike but is a grotesque self parody of the young Ronnie with the current older head. The hair is reddish hue, the eyes sea like blue, but steely. It implies a sense of fun with this small figure claiming attention by shouting YOU but its very presence in an obvious space. I laughed. It made me feel great. Its inviting you want to approach the figure and see why he is so angry, then you get a shock when you realise its an old persons face and mannerisms on a young person’s body.
The textile language is a strong piece of the work, in that the batman onesie reinforces the stereotype of what a juvenile might wear but the old head juxtaposes this young imagery.
Brilliantly executed the gallery space is a clever and appropriate placement for the work and attracts much attention and garners interest from passers-by. When I went a young woman who was caring for a child walked at the front of the gallery stopped, and exhorted the child to visit it as deserving of closer attention. A walk in and inspection incited her curiosity and and invited comment from the child. She talked to me about the work, asked the child her reaction and offered to take my photo with it. I believe the successful curation made the work engage more fully with the public and made this work address and achieve the desired purpose of the maker as signified by the title “YOU”. It was a bit of whimsical fun in a hectic, part of town and made scurrying city folk stop and embrace the work.
1. What brought you to Detroit/why did you choose to do your residency here?
The work of my visual practice explores the theme of abandonment in post industrial environments. Detroit was an ideal environment for me to pursue this.
2. Can you describe the focus of your work leading up to Detroit and what impact visiting the city has had on what you produce since?
The focus of my work leading up to Detroit has been addressing the central theme of abandonment in a post industrial environment. I have produced a body of work addressing this through a series of relief prints of the abandoned cockatoo Island Shipyards, NSW. A body of oil paintings, collages, drawings, photgraphs, prints and assemblages addressing the themes of discarded and superceded childrens games, eg Monoploy, of the 1950’s and 60’s, art deco teasets of the 1930’s , 1960’s comics , damaged tin toys , old dolls and outmoded educational aides eg Cuisanair rods.
My work since returning from Detroit focuses on abandonment in post industrial environments. Detroit has many deployed workers. I got to view up close a city decimated by industry closures and its effect on the people. It challenges me to go deeper into the human psyche ie think about the history and the events behind the closures. Presently I am creating a series of paintings based on the blue windows of Fisher Plant no 21, designed by Albert Kahn, blue helped the workers feel positive . It is challenging me to look at the human psyche, and think about production lines in a grid contextual concept.
3. How would you describe the artists’ community in Detroit? And how does it compare to your experiences as an artist in Australia/ other countries you’ve visited?
The artist community in Detroit was alive, embracing , vital, energetic and welcoming. I believe as a community they have lost so much, have hit rock bottom and will come back up. I witnessed great positivity, sharing of time, resources and information .They were an extremely welcoming bunch, from the high end, swanky galleries, right down to the mural and street artists. It was most refreshing as though as a result of their economic downturn, the boundaries have shifted, its a looser community, not so bound by prejudices and social stigmas & class system, they have stripped all barriers away and are more embracive of creative output and prepared to take chances. Why, a fellow artist, Mike Sackey, gave me shoes, a hat, vest, and decals when i had no cash to pay for them at a factory relocation / garage sale.
Melbourne, Australia boasts a more traditional art scene and community with established galleries and local hierarchy, mind set and prejudices. Whilst it is constantly in evolution, there are established protocols, followers of tradition and favouring of certain art schools and promotion of specific artists. As we are a long way from established art centres there is the isolation mindset, combined with the colonial theme of ” are we good enough , compared to Europe “, possibly some negativity and tall poppy syndrome too. It is changing though and more up and coming artists are getting start projects off the ground, funding is becoming available and more money both private and government is being pumped into the arts.
4. Describe what your exhibition focuses on and what kind of reception it received.
It focused on a definitive, personal experience of Detroit whilst I believe still addressing the central theme of my work ie abandonment in a post industrial environment.
“Define Detroit “exhibition was a series of 11 A1 photographic images, both colour and b&w, of the post industrial sites I visited in Detroit, along with found objects found at these sites, assembled underneath eg tin lightshade, piece of wallpaper, empty, rusted letterbox slot and a child’s abandoned watercolour set and drawing. It contained words I had written to describe Detroit.
Building Detritus eg a tin box, copper wiring, pressed metal of a roof.
A series of 9 small watercolour paintings produced enroute whilst travelling around Detroit.Six old 33 1/3 vinyl records found on the side of the road in Detroit, which included motown iconic singers like Diana Ross and Ray Charles.
It was received favourably by most people. Those who know me believe it addresses my work succinctly . As it is housed in display cases in the entrance foyer it gets a reaction as people entering and exiting the large building see it . Some seem puzzled . When I was installing I got six favourable comments, & some puzzled glances but at least it is topical. Three D decals have already been stolen/ souvenired!
My talk went for 10/15 minutes was theatrical. It included removing my sparkly cheer leader skirt bought at a vintage store to reveal my ” detroit-still-exists tshirt dress underneath! I had their attention . Of my 20 or so listeners I was told I exuded passion, knew the artists and all the art I had seen , my memory and attention to detail was exceptional . In short I gave an inspirational talk which totally embraced my art .
Several questions , including, ” did I feel safe ?” were answered adroitly with ,”yes of course , I actually felt more unsafe in NYC.”
5. What would you tell someone who was considering visiting Detroit.
You’ll be surprised with what you will find.
Her creativity, passion, interest, beauty, old& battered facade are inspirational, and the natives couldn’t be more welcoming .
Dominoes, no not the age old game I played as a child, but a living art installation played out in Melbourne’s CBD, on a hot, lazy summer afternoon last Saturday.
My niece was in from out of town for a few days and cajoled me into going. I’m glad I did. The circuitous route of the domino path embraced parts of flinders lane, the Melbourne Town Hall, St Pauls Cathedral, Degraves St and even beat a path through the Crumpler store.
The domino pieces, which were blocks of chalky, lightweight concrete mix had been placed in perfect symmetry along the route, some lying, many upright but all in perfect accord of the overall plan. This plan was for each to tumble onto the other, causing all to fall in a sequential order. Volunteers were placed along the route to hand out information and guard the blocks. From my vantage point our “marshall ” complete with walkie talkie told us when they had started and how far away they were. A victory yell went up from the crowd as they tumbled toward us. Yes they fell in perfect formation, spectators stood transfixed, and it was evidence of an art installation involving all that captivated and engaged the audience.
A plan was formulated, some time ago, to plan, and write my final essay for Context and Culture, a second semester subject of my Diploma of Visual Art.
I believe I chose a suitable topic, but research proved problematic, as not much documentation, of the art work produced in this period, was recorded. Still sticking with the original topic another attempt has been forged, but I am stuck. First and second paragraphs are written, but the stumbling block is the next two paragraphs and conclusion.I want it done, it has hung around too long and invaded the edges of my conscience, an unwelcome intrusion when all I really want to do is spend time in my studio and complete pieces for my final folio assessment.
I am frustrated and bored with it but seem locked into inaction, a paralysis of the brain, preventing my arm from piecing it all together. I know I will just need to sit down and give it a bit more time. I will myself to get organised, collate my notes, marshall my thoughts, and produce a cohesive piece of writing. I just can’t seem to pull it together, with so many other demands on my time to complete my final drawing folio and display it in a cleaned studio, the essay keeps getting relegated to the ” to do ” pile. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow! Watch this space.
It was many smallish stands , spread over the two main floors of the building .
Interactive displays , installations , gigantic canvases , small & large prints abounded .
It was sensory overload as I gazed upon this vast display of contemporary Australian art . Exhibitors had come from far & wide within Australia , including Brisbane to Perth . The creative output of Aussie artists is enormous . Old stagers like Andrew Sibleys portraits of the 70’s , nestled beside Del Kathryn Barton’s , stunning , recent portraitures . Cars , chocolates , flowers , and roving champagne carts were all in the mix .
Particular favourites included one of Adam Cullen’s paintings from his Ned Kelly , the Bushranger series , & ” the Skipping Girl , Little Audrey 2014 , Jim Thalassoudis . I love the bold use of colour and strong figurative style of the former , and the childhood memory the latter evokes .
An interesting, interactive performance , titled ” love is in the Fair ” challenged onlookers . It was a bold , fun concept , cleverly conceived and innovatively performed , by charming hosts Adele and Peter .
Old town , new town , definitely got the beat down
Sepia toned young punks gyrating around
imitating american hip hop trying to run the moves to ground
Beat , feet , music
Drinkers , thinkers , high energy tinkers
Warsaw is big town , hip town , no rigor mortis in this town
Rebellious , querulous , inventive , and nazi preventative
A town steeped in history , shrouded in religion
Burgeoning , bustling , never repetitive
Arty , crafty , everyones at the party
Incense , priests , cobbled streets ,
night skies , artificial fireflys ,
Herbal tea caverns , more ice cream than you can imagine
flower sellers peddling ancient wares , red roses are everywhere
Red & white flag , purity and blood
Polish eagle astride her proud , gritty city