01 May In Conversation with Rone
Fascinated by his beautiful portraits of women, we didn’t miss the chance to know more about Rone and his work. We caught up with him while he was in London for ‘Wallflower’, his debut solo show at StolenSpace.
StolenSpace: You are part of the infamous Everfresh crew from Melbourne. How does it feel being a collective as well as finding your own feet as successful solo international artists?
Rone: As a collective, especially in the beginning, because we were very unknown, we were known as a collective rather than individuals. But we also all had our own strength and we were learning stuff off each other especially someone like Phibs, who was painting for a decade before any of us and he is really talented so he was definitely an integral part of our studio…but other things each person brought to the studio are really good and then as we kind of grow and all found our feet and started doing our own work I guess we just pushed each other as well.
SS: So mainly you supported and learned from each other. How do you feel being also known not necessarily as a part of the Everfresh Crew?
R: As an individual I never really dreamt of being an artist as a solo artist career. I started doing it for fun and it’s taken off by itself and it’s a huge honour to do something independently, like you’re not living of the curtails of your friends anymore. You’re doing it all by yourself, which is great but also knowing that I wouldn’t have been in this position if I hadn’t have grown with them.
SS: You said: “I paint because I want to bring the streets alive.” I imagine this is linked to the way you relate to and perceive the city. Can you explain more?
R: I do like it, that you can paint an area that’s forgotten, that no one cares about anymore and I’ve seen it happen. We painted in the back of an old warehouse and in an industrial area, no one used to use it and they used to just dump rubbish there then, the next weekend after we painted it, they had a BBQ there! You know like hanging out, it had become like a social place it did bring life to. And also the way I paint, of not really painting, like leaving the background, almost making the wall the medium and just having that kind of come to life as well.
SS: You mainly paint beautiful and intense portraits of women. What is your inspiration? Are you interested in investigating some special feelings and emotions?
R: I like to try and find those emotions that are very hard to describe. It’s not happy, it’s not sad, it’s not angry, it’s just those ones in between. It might be like that final moment after something really bad has happened and you just see the light at the end of the tunnel kind of thing. It’s not good yet, but it’s going to get better. I’m trying to paint that, those really delicate in-between moments.
SS: You mentioned that your “work attempts to locate the friction point between beauty and decay”. Is this statement related to the portraits themselves or to the interaction between them and the place where you paint them? And what do you mean exactly with ‘friction point’ between the two. Can you give us examples?
R: The location and the background and trying to have that so…I think my best works are the ones that are more transparent and you can see what is behind them and it makes them feel really light, almost ghost like sometimes. So they feel delicate again. Often the backgrounds are very raw such as brick walls and stuff like that but still with this beautiful soft image over the top and I just kind of try to capture that. I think some of my work gets it but I’m still tying to perfect it, trying to find that friction point where it’s enough of the raw but it still captures the beauty in between. Each time I paint a different background it presents me with new challenges. I painted something yesterday and it was on this piece of wood we found outside and I marked it up and I started painting, I was using water to paint with, so started squirting water on it and it became green because there must have been algae, so the whole thing just became green and it looked cool… So it’s alive!
SS: Your street work is always huge, usually spreading on whole tall buildings. What are the difficulties behind these large-scale interventions? Can you reveal more of the process behind it?
R: I’ve been inspired by seeing other people painting large walls, I loved it and I was always doing quite large posters. I didn’t know how to do it because I was just doing stencils and screen prints, eventually I started painting smaller but trying to teach myself how to paint directly on to a wall and I thought the only way I could do it was to project something. I tried to project something but it was more difficult than I thought, because it needs to be night time, you need to have power, you need to have a tripod to put the projector on, you have to make sure no one touches the projector, it has to be way back from the wall. It’s really difficult to line up the placement and if you miss one line at night you won’t notice until the next day, and you’d have to wait until the next night to do it again. It’s just really tricky. So I went to the grid method, and even doing the grid method I was like ‘this is so boring’ getting the perfect straight lines, horizontal, vertical, and slowly mark it all out, then I worked out… I had a large wall that had very large bricks on it and a bunch of windows, so instead of doing the grid I used the bricks and the windows as a grid then I worked out… I had a wall that was part bricks and the rest was concrete, so I was like ‘oh maybe I’ll just draw some lines on there and took a photo of the wall’. Then I put the photo over the image of the girl and I had it lined up so I knew ‘the eye starts just at the right of the window… and this starts near the door… and the ear is three bricks up the top’ and it just became a map to get my proportions right so that’s how I get everything to scale and now the one I did the other week was 9 storeys – I spent the first hour drawing squiggling lines all over the wall and then took a photo of that and just based it off that.
I use the building itself as the grid – a really good wall for me has lots of unique textures and cracks. On a clean flat white wall I have to put a background down so I have reference points. The dots become the reference points; I have to use those to mark everything out. To paint someone who looks beautiful, someone who has perfect symmetry people are attracted to, to get that in a painting, on an angle, if one thing’s out, people can tell. So you can’t quite work it out, you do it, so doing the grid thing you make sure its correct and you kind of render it and paint it in.
SS: The creation process of your work is quite complex. You mix different techniques and make layers that give a special texture to your portraits. How did you get to this particular style?
R: With the posters, I was always designing posters at the studio and screen printing, pasting them up and I just love that. That was one of the textures that I really loved on the street and I had the idea of painting over the bill posters, but I had just seen quite a few other artists use these found bill posters and I didn’t feel I had ownership with that. Coincidentally I had done all of this, a week or a few weeks before I put my show up, VHILS had come out, he had done the ones with the posters. And I was glad I didn’t do that exactly.
All my posters are mine I design them, screen-print them so the colour palette connects as a series and there is no Justin Bieber in the corner. Anything you see in there is related to me so they’re all personal things. It might have my friend’s name or a sticker, there are all these things that are from us and I love that. It’s way more personal, it’s not just all these rubbish posters – I wanted something that came back to me – but still having that texture of what you find on the street – that’s almost like a fantasy version of what could be. Trying to imitate that feeling.
SS: At the ‘VII’ group show there was the ‘Seven Serpents of Medusa’
I had drawn that whole snake and printed it, I make the posters that I dream of – you know that poster was for nothing, it just said ‘Everfresh’, I loved that. The snake is an Escher reference but it’s also a 90s skateboard stuff in there too. D* has done a few interpretations of skateboard graphics, so it was referencing all those things that I grew up with, into my paintings but also I’m not going to go out and paint a big skull and snake wall. It’s not really my imagery but it still influences me so it’s fun to put that kind of stuff in there.
SS: Travelling around the world, painting, exhibiting is this the dream you imagined being an artist?
R: No. I never dreamed I was going to be an artist. I always – since I was younger liked painting and drawing but I thought I might be an engineer. I started an engineering traineeship in high school. Then I did graphic design, graphic art and I thought I was very lucky to get a job in graphic arts and I did that for maybe 12 . I learnt so much and I had a really good time doing it I thought that was going to be the best job ever – I was designing t-shirt graphics for companies I loved and I was doing some really good jobs. I was using that to fund everything I was doing outside of that I was travelling for research and work – I was going and pasting up work and putting stickers while I was travelling so one was funding the other. I never thought that it would get to a point there was so much demand for my original works where I’d stop creating images for other people and just do it – or paint whatever the hell I want really and people still love it and they’re going to pay me for it and I can make my living out of this. I didn’t even dream of it, didn’t even think it was going to be possible. I knew I enjoyed it but I enjoyed skateboarding too, but I didn’t think I was going to become a pro. It’s just something I enjoyed doing and kept pushing myself at it – you know all my friends were out doing it and it was just fun, just a social thing. You get these emails now ‘come to this country and paint this wall’ this is crazy you know!
SS: What are your future projects, plans and upcoming exhibitions?
R: I’ve got a new studio to move into as soon as I get off the plane at home, and then I’ve got about 5 or 6 weeks before I fly to Taipei in Taiwan, we’re doing a POW WOW there. Then I’ve been asked to go to San Miguel in Mexico but I can’t go because it’s the same time as Taipei. This is my problem now. It’s hilarious, I have days where I’m like I’m having a bad day, things aren’t working out, and then I’ll see someone whose having a normal day but I think to myself their life is so much harder, I have nothing to complain about. My life is a joke, the things I get offered and the chances and opportunities that have come my way recently are amazing. When I was painting this wall downtown in Melbourne I could literally see people in their offices and they were all at the windows watching me all the time. I think I ruined productivity for like three blocks. But it was really cool they’d come and see me at lunchtime and talk to me like ‘this is amazing’. I’m sure they’re all probably rich and very happy but I’d hate to do their job everyday. I’m so lucky to do what I love, and honoured just to be here.
‘Wallflower’ is open until 4th May at StolenSpace Gallery.
To see Rone’s ‘Wallflower’ artworks on display at StolenSpace now, click here.
For enquiries about this artist please email: firstname.lastname@example.org