When I first met Melbourne-based street artist Rone, he sat perched up on a platform outside White Walls Gallery, his long hair silhouetting the sun. He painted thick eyelashes onto a large-scale street portrait of his signature “girl” and chatted with me about his upcoming show. He laughed and pointed out to me that he was keeping a log in his phone of some of the things the homeless people were saying to him as he painted. One woman’s conversation went like this: “That’s amazing!” (talking about his painting). “I should give you a million dollars!” Rone: “Do you have a million dollars?” Woman: “Is this worth a million dollars?” (shows him a broken electrical adapter). Rone: “No.” Woman: “What about this?” (shows him her boobs).
Another comical conversation happened with a young girl – Kimberly – who carried a Prada handbag and writes about love. Kimberly: “I lived in Australia for 20 years then 16 years here.” Rone: “So you’re 36?” Kimberly: “No!!! But I got a baby kangaroo at my place, wanna see?” Soon after, Rone got a nod from a sixty year old cowboy Italian: “bellissimo!”
Rone’s style on the street translates beautifully to his style in the studio. His upcoming solo show at White Walls “Darkest Before the Dawn” will feature works on canvas, brick, and paper, varying in size from 3’x2’ to large-scale works measuring over 6’x6’. The opening reception will be Saturday, September 8th, from 7-11pm. Have a look:
LF: What’s in a name, RONE? What does it mean?
R: Rone is my nickname, an abbreviation of my name.
LF: You’re first solo show was titled “Fall From Grace” and now the current one at White Walls Gallery is “Darkest before Dawn”. They both exude a sort of “dark” undertone. Why dark vs. light?
R: I have always worked in black and white, so I guess there is a slight correlation there, but I like my shows to tell a subtle story and explore the transitions between emotions and the rise and fall of life. Aesthetically my images have always been pretty dark, I think it probably comes from my skateboarding and punk rock background.
LF: Your paintings of the same doe-eyed woman manifest her as a modern legend. Can you talk about this?
R: It happened quite unintentionally, but some of my earliest images seemed to invoke a big reaction in Melbourne, my hometown. One of my first stencil images – Susan – I used to paste up under one of Melbourne’s busiest bridges, I would quite often paint the stencil crying. Years later, a woman contacted me after she found my profile in a book. As it turned out, she was a model in the 70’s and I had found her image in a vintage magazine. For years she had related my images with her life and as the paste ups went up there were uncanny parallels with her life. It was great to know the real story of this woman as people had asked me about her so often. I now have all my images professionally photographed but I try to use women with the same intensity and emotion as some of my earliest works.
LF: Were you a street artist before studio?
R: I started doing stencils in my local skate parks and began meeting other artists through that. Once a few of us got together we decided to share a studio and we began working collaboratively on some pieces. After that we became known as Everfresh.
LF: Most inspiring street art moment?
R: It would have to be going to Miami in December last year. I was lucky enough to have a couple of pieces in a show there so I decided to go a week earlier and try and get some walls to paint. It was incredible to see some of the artists who inspire me everyday all painting together in the same area. Every surface was being painted and all art was being celebrated. I’d seen these works in galleries and on the internet before, but to see some of the masters painting live was an unforgettable experience.
LF: You infuse the streets into your fine art, by incorporating textures like torn bill posters and deteriorating walls, but juxtapose it against a beautiful girl’s face. Why?
R: I really like to watch my pieces deteriorate in the street, from the weather, the environment, to the the other artists around it. I love the contrasts that my images have against the gritty city decay. In my gallery work I try and replicate that onto canvas because its what I like best about my artwork on the street.
LF: 80s, Cuba and Miami? How have these influenced you?
R: I visited Miami, Cuba and the Caribbean on a holiday last year and I was really inspired by the fearless use of color in those areas, especially in Cuba. I loved the way the bright colors had faded to desaturated pastels and in some cases the weather had distressed the surfaces even further. I thought it was the perfect compliment to my work and decided to reference the colors in my more recent work.
LF: You’re quite well known in Melbourne, even being called the poster boy for Australia’s next crop of street artists. How do you feel about this?
R: The ‘poster boy’ tag is almost an in joke that has somehow stuck with me, I find it quite funny. Melbourne is a great place for street artists, there is a big support network amongst the artists, and in the public. We have lots of galleries and artists get a lot of support from local business and the media. Even the local council has been known to support street art ventures and are now beginning to recognize its significance in Melbourne cultural landscape.
LF: What gets you off, literally or figuratively?
R: People painting prolifically, artists continually outdoing themselves with their art, people staying true to their artistic ideals.
LF: How FAST do you live?
R: Fast enough. I love traveling, painting and Melbourne. I think I get equal serves of them all.