Rone – ‘Empty’

These days, Rone doesn’t need an introduction.  Internationally renowned for his large scale female portraits, he has been to almost every corner of the globe beautifying the walls with local women.  For the first time in two years, Rone embarking on a new show of absolutely epic proportions.  If you are in Melbourne, you do not want to miss this, as it is the biggest show you will see! In between painting walls, floors and finishing touches, Rone caught up with Damo…

Can you tell us a bit about your show, ‘Empty’?

Rone:     It comes back to empty spaces.  There was a tradition happening in the early 2000s in Melbourne where people would find an abandoned building, everyone was given the location and people would go and paint, and then there would be a show until everyone got kicked out.
That was one of the things I really loved about the culture when I had just got in to it.  So this show is a little nod to that but also to what was here before there was nothing? The story of each space is told through what is left behind. 

Tell us a bit about the space:

Rone:     It’s an old silent movie theatre that was built around 1910.  I think its prime was in the 1920s but it did not survive to the 40s, I think it was closed down in the late 1930s.  It’s just this art nouveau design.  I’ve seen it over the years and more recently it was a discount store, just a sad kind of store where you buy your socks (Dimmey’s for you Melbourne readers).  I had been in there and there was this big back wall, you could see through tiny gaps where they had actually painted over a fresco mural.  When this space came up I knew what I wanted to do with it, and the first thing I did was try and restore the mural that was painted over years ago.

The show seems to have three major bodies of work – studies, photo prints and large canvas.  Can you tell us a little about the photo works?

Rone:     The photographic works are documenting paintings I am doing in abandoned houses. I love to work in those spaces.  I have gone back to painting in the streets, painting places that maybe you shouldn’t which is something I find really exciting.  I have been so fortunate to travel the world painting these giant murals, but there is still just something about painting these abandoned houses. There is such a mystery to the spaces, what has happened there before. Unfortunately I can’t take everybody to these abandoned houses and let them walk through it because they’re just so dangerous.  To capture and document this preserves them, and that’s why I wanted to display them.

I could have released a series of locations but that would have been a mess, some of them are deteriorating as the wallpaper can curl when wet – in some cases the piece is only there long enough for a photograph.

This is your first show in two years due to travel. What have the highlights been for the past 2 years and are any of these highlights reflected in the show?

Rone:     I have done some things I am really stoked about. Travel-wise I have realised that for myself, I need to do more walls where I am, engaging with the community and to paint something that reflects them.  Recently I was in Vanuatu and it was awesome to go and meet a lot of the older women of these communities and offer to paint them, but for me that didn’t translate into something I would want to commercialise as an exhibition. 

I started painting some small laneways around Melbourne again, just going back to that and I had quite a lot of fun with that.  It was just things I was doing here and there, and they are just really quick, there was something in that because it just really captured people’s imagination.  For me, it just felt more spontaneous and free in a sense, and is more obtainable than a 13 storey building in a foreign country.  Things that are just on a little random back door and people think ‘that could have been behind my house’, I think that’s kind of cool, so there was an evolution to that – going into these abandoned houses.  To me this is a more personal work, the ability to not reflect on a community.  As an artist I am free to do what I want and to make my own story in these spaces.


How do you choose your muses?

Rone: I did a casting of a few models and there was one girl called Sarah who is best friends with Teresa who I featured in the last show, so there is a nice cool connection there.  I have actually done a few walls of Sarah and Teresa together and have been just trying to capture their friendship – they have got an awesome partnership which is really great.

How do you think your practices has changed over time and what do you think has been the catalyst for this change?

Rone: Change over time?  It’s just technique, I started as a stencil artist and that is what I thought was going to do; like stencils and paste ups and stickers and all that. I was so into that. Then came a time where I hit a wall and realised that it was pointless to cut out a stencil that is 2 storeys tall, it was starting to become stupid so I started to learn to paint free hand.  I’m still learning, I don’t think I am a master. Being self-taught, I have worked out a way to paint that has given me a unique style. I am happy to have this style and I think it works well with these rough textures that inspire my work.  A lot of my work is trying to have these beautiful images in contrast with these rough and raw settings; that’s the general thesis of my work, the contrast of beauty and decay and exploring that.

What artist do you most identify with? 

Rone:     Like who inspires me? You know I really love what Lush is doing, but I don’t know if I identify with him…  Lush is an inspiration on a ‘fuck it lets do it’ level; you don’t have to do things by the book. I always find inspiration when an artist goes way outside of the expected norms of finding their own way. Ian Strange is also inspiring, I think from watching him I realised there is a difference in a local artists exhibiting like local artists, then there is international artists who exhibit locally. What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Rone:     Don’t quit your day job (laughs)

What does the future hold?

Rone:     I am already thinking about the next show.  This show was meant to be bigger, if you can believe it. This show has totally evolved in to something as big but not as involved – I had to pull this show together in 6 weeks and I was hoping to have 6 months.  I am hoping that the next show I will have 6 months to work on something.  That will be cool if I can pull that off!

‘Empty’ opens 6pm Friday 14 October 2016, 247 Johnston Street, Fitzroy.