ART: 11 OCTOBER 2015


Empty: Rone’s beauty in neglect

For four years I’ve caught the eyes of one of street artist Rone’s first ‘Jane Doe’ series portraits of beautiful women. This one is painted on the wall of small house in a Collingwood street I drive by regularly. Collingwood is Rone’s home. Allegedly.

Since that work mysteriously appeared overnight, his ‘Jane Doe’ figures, described as heroinic, almost cinematic female portraits, have appeared in large, more elaborate, and emotive forms, reflecting the unique local faces of beauty found in the places that he visits. That includes the likes of London, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Austin, Havana, Port Vila, Taipei, Gothenburg, Mexico City, Detroit, Hong Kong among others. In such as short space of time, Rone has become a street artist of international renown.

So, Empty, his first exhibition in Melbourne in two years – everything sold at opening of his previous show – is eagerly anticipated, for several reasons – the sense of danger associated with creating the works, the conflict of beauty with decay … and the spectacularly dramatic, and pertinent, staging of the show.

Occupying the soon-to-be-demolished former Star Lyric Theatre building in Fitzroy’s Johnston Street, Empty also explores the synergetic relationship between new and old, wanted and unwanted. Rone claims he sees something beautiful in things derelict, dilapidated, forgotten. He finds beauty in neglect.

Loosely based around the theme of ‘hidden beauty’, the collection includes several canvases, as well as a series of interrelated photographs. It’s his first outing with the medium. The images document various mural works undertaken in abandoned houses and buildings across Melbourne. They were all done clandestinely, sometimes in quite dangerous places. There was a real sense that the buildings could be destroyed at any time, says Rone, so the only way for them to exist and be seen was through these photographic images.

The show’s most striking work comes in the form of a 12-metre-high portrait on the rear wall of the historic Johnston Street building. Entitled The Star Lyric, the piece cleverly integrates remnants of an original 1920s trompe l’oeil that the artist serendipitously discovered after sandblasting the walls to create a work surface. He restored what was there and painted around it to make it all feel like one piece.

The art nouveau-style theatre – long since hidden from the street by a rendered blue iron facade – screened films between 1922 and 1952. In its heyday, the Star Lyric was a place of grandeur and excitement, but over the past 60 years has progressively deteriorated – dowdy and largely ignored – in blunt contrast the neighbourhood’s vibrancy.

For Rone, the building’s faded grandeur is all part of the appeal.

Thankfully, the faded Jane Doe on my drive-by route was refreshed not so long ago. It’s all to do with the eyes!


Empty, by Rone; October 14-23; 12pm-5pm. Location: 247 Johnston Street, Fitzroy.

Opening Night: Friday, October 14, 6pm-9pm

Visit http://www.r-o-n-e.com