Melbourne is in the midst of Roa fever right now, with his show ‘HIC SVNT DRACONES’ currently on show through Backwoods Gallery. If you haven’t seen it you must, and if you can’t, check out the video walk through below and the images that follow.
Then, check out Damo’s exclusive with the man himself, below!
You travel the world through art. What brings you back to Melbourne and Backwoods Gallery?
I exhibited in Backwoods with the ‘Carrion’ show in 2012. Part of the gallery was a ‘living’ installation of road kill (animals) decomposing during the length of the exhibit. It was also then that I started the good relations with the Healesville Sanctuary, which made the Backwoods show for me a very special and good experience. When Backwoods invited me for this new exhibition, it felt naturally good to be back in Melbourne, to make a less smelly show!
Can you tell us a bit more about your Melbourne show? What piece is your personal favourite and why?
The ‘HIC SVUNT DRACONES’ exhibition is inspired by the early descriptions of animals from the Europeans of the ‘unexplored’ territories. When they arrived in Australia they became mesmerized by the animal creatures. They would send sketches and pelts of their ‘discoveries’ back to Europe. When captain John Hunter send the platypus sketches to Great Britain, the scientist overseas considered it as a hoax, a sort of mocked up animal by a taxidermist. The work “Captain John Hunter platypus’ is therefor my ‘favorite’, because its represent the underlaying concept of the show.
This show is the first time that I have exhibited seven large scale pen drawings; they depict my personal study of Australian animals in compositions together or solo. Then I created an installation as a sort of ‘wunderkammer’ (a place where a collection of curiosities and rarities is exhibited) to enter the exhibition; many of the ‘props’ are borrowed from Healesville Sanctuary, where I repeatedly went to study the animals alive and up close. In the dimly lit wunderkammer you hear screaming Tasmanian devils, and at the beginning of the entry you are greeted by a projection of the black and white footage of the last Tasmanian Tiger pacing back and forth in its zoo enclosure. Upon exiting the Wunderkammer, you enter a bright industrial exhibition room; where the drawings are hanging alongside the 4 large cabinets I made in Melbourne from salvaged materials found on the streets. Two of these cabinets are portraying animals I painted for the first time: the Tasmanian Devil and the Emu. I always consider shows as one overall installation to create this sort of experience.
Why is it important to you to portray animals local to the area you’re working in?
My personal project is studying animals in their environment. The native species better characterises whats happened/happening in a country historically, culturally and contemporarily. It’s a sort of a personal artistic research of species while traveling in the modern world.
Besides that, native species often got the smallest interest of the inhabitants of the country. Often they are considered by the inhabitants as a nuisance, a plague, or in contrary they can be unfamiliar with it, even its their natural heritage. For me its a long duration study that constantly give me new inspiration and keeps me going.
What’s next for ROA? When can we hope to welcome you again?
mostly mural painting. Europe in the very near future for a few walls. Hopefully back to London, but whilst not planned in the near future, I might cross the canal just because I would love to paint again in London. It feels too long…
Huge thanks to Backwoods Gallery for the images. For more, or any sales enquiries, hit firstname.lastname@example.org!