Taylor Square NSW 2010: Reko Rennie, Streetware 3

December 6, 2012

Reko Rennie Streetware 3

150g Stillman & Birn 5.5×8.5″ sketchbook; Derwent HB and 4B graphite pencil, Derwent pastel pencils 

Reko Rennie has had a former bank building painted for Sydney’s recent Art & About 2012 in Taylor Square. It will be on show till March I think so I hope to get back to sketch it again sometime soon. This is the yin side of the building in the afternoon sun facing Bourke Street; it has text added (as any self-respecting Post-Modernist artwork has to have), Always was, always will be – but it wasn’t visible, beings on the the yang or more public side facing Flinders Street.

Stillman & Birn

I was just playing around in the “open mode”, in my usual space-time oasis of around 60-90mins  (see John Cleese on Creativity on Youtube). My only express aim was to skip the gutter in my new Stillman & Birn sketchbook because I knew it wouldn’t scan so well, but I did want to explore both sides of the double-spread today. The paper holds the texture of the pencil marks (not just the tonality) extremely well! While I had worked out in advance what time of day to sketch it and exactly where to sit in Campbell Street out of harm’s way, I hadn’t done any preliminary work based on the photo in the Art & About exhibition catalogue, a proposal image. More importantly, my head was full of the FB discussion this week on USK Australia: Detail is Good, Detail is Bad, boring Detail can be therapeutically added later (or not, given the spontaneity of on-site sketching; sketching as Play within the constraints of the search in USK for veracity; what to Leave In, what to Leave Out; Detail vs Generality, &c. I knew I had to convey Context, even though at three o’clock in the afternoon midweek, it was very quiet.

There was no way I was going to be obsessive-compulsive about recording all the traditional markings of the Kamilaroi marks or their complex colourwork (black, blue, orange, purple). Afterwards I rationalised that being an homage to the Aboriginal issues in the facade, it had to be in referential black-and-white (with yellow and red added). Rennie conveyed them as Aboriginal warrior markings; I saw them as targets, given the violent conflict between gays and aborigines in this particular setting, Sydney’s ‘gay mile’.

My mind kept wandering back to the wide open spaces of Kamilaroi country with its silvered light and how unprepared everyone is about upcoming Constitutional change. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to include street furniture to the right – Taylor Square has long been a hothouse of urban innovation – and I only noticed the street surveillance camera towards the end: my being observed observing, me copying an artwork in an ‘outdoor’ gallery space. As Cleese says, it’s all about taking interesting juxtapositions (I enjoyed the four different architectural styles on show) and playing with them. I liked the irony too of the fully-grown trees sitting on the roof garden to the extreme right and how the architectural lines of the 1910 Commercial Bank building actively resist the paint overlay: a bit like banksters today, really.

In retrospect, it’s interesting to compare the changes between Rennie’s proposal and how it worked out:

Reko Rennie


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