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Outpost postings…

Last weekend we went out to Outpost: Art from the street on Cockatoo Island. There is much to see and each weekend for a month new artists come with their spray cans and their backpacks and their skateboards to do their stuff at the site. The pavilions and tunnels display the work on boards very much in the manner of a gallery or an expo. I found this a little disappointing as the works were relativity small in scale and are displayed in such a way they seemed to have lost their edginess. It was all a bit tame and ho-hum.

BUT, you will not be disappointed with the site specific works! There are a couple of fantastic pieces! The over-sized sushi soy sauce replica dangling in the wind from a rusty and disused crane was the first that caught my eye. It’s so subtle it can’t help delight!

And then there are the large paintings works on buildings which for me were the main draw card. Without referring back to the catalogue the one that jumps to mind immediately (a week after the visit) is the one I will write about.

It’s by an artist called Roa and I might as well say it right here and now, that I’m a fan! Roa is from Belgium and works from a cherry-picker in black and white. You have to love a guy that understands black and white; that perfect combination, the night and day of an artists palette, the king and queen of the colour world!

Here is his work on Cockatoo Island and again you will have to forgive the terrible shot I took as I’ve said before, I am no photographer! That aside, this work is sensational!

Roa, Cockatoo Island installation. Photo: Carole Best

Roa’s subject matter is animals – apparently he tries to select animals once indigent to the area he’s working in and so there are fish, and rabbits and moles and birds painted on walls around the world. He paints them with such ease it takes your breath away. The works are brilliant in so many ways. Firstly the compositional mastery of pushing wild animal into built space – over windows, below eaves, in and out of columns, straddling doorways – probably speaks more about his aims than anything I can write. The animals are imbued with an emotional quality so powerful that when I look at them I feel the same surge of feeling as I do when looking at a newborn baby or puppy. I’ve tried hard to work out which elements achieve this and I’ve come up with only three. I’d love to hear from anyone who can suggest others.

The eyes of the animals never look at us – they are trying to get past us, away from us and they are painted with a wide-eyed innocence; over-sized, heavy-lidded and shy.

Roa, (detail of eye) Cockatoo Island. Photo: Carole Best

The second thing I can point to in achieving such emotional punch is that Roa paints with an animator’s hand but a naturalist’s eye. There is a touch of Looney Tunes Road Runner in the work but without the spite. His observation and draftsmanship of each animal is remarkable, but the rendering is loose and easy and life-like, despite composing them in often unlife-like poses, where they have crashed or fallen. And finally there is also the feeling of movement and of the need for escape.

Much of this is achieved using the aerosol’s unique brush stroke; that confident blast from the spray can – so brutal and uncompromising on our trains, underpasses and public seats – but here Roa uses it with considerable finesse – as a feathered stroke, the periphery giving off some of its energy to become speckled and softer and finely pointed. Have a look at Roa’s brush strokes in these closeups below. It’s a medium hard to master but extremely versatile.

I couldn’t find an official website for Roa but have a look at more of his Australian works here. I think his work is fantastic – poignant and painterly and I’ll be on the look out for more!

Roa, (detail of composition) Cockatoo Island. Photo: Carole Best




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