For Rone, the internationally renowned street artist, his work isn’t just about painting large portraits of women. It’s about recreating public spaces: “I’ve painted back behind a warehouse where people used to dump mattresses. We came in there, got rid of a lot of rubbish and painted this wall and over the weekend people were having barbeques out there,” he says.
Rone, whose full name is Tyrone Wright, recently recreated a new space with his exhibition Empty, held in an abandoned theatre building in Fitzroy. As his first solo show in two years, one side of the walls was lined with his canvases, while the other side hosted photos of his portraits in collapsing houses and abandoned spaces around Melbourne. Featured on the back wall was a portrait the height of a two storey building, of a young women with her eyes to sky. Due to its large size, Rone calls his work somewhat obnoxious, “but the work itself is quite fragile and beautiful and delicate, I like that contrast.”
Growing up just outside Geelong on the Bellarine, Rone’s art is taking him around the world, exhibiting his work in London, New York, San Francisco and Miami, as well as painting murals in Canada, Taiwan, France, Germany and New Zealand.
While Rone will be continuing to paint in all different countries, he will use local women as the subject for his large scale portraits: a mother and daughter on a Detroit wall, a community centre in Vanuatu with a local young lady, and female football fans near the Etihad stadium in Melbourne Docklands. While the subjects are local, the titles of Rone’s recent works are inspired from his musical taste, that is, almost all-classic 70s and 80s rock.
What started as an illegal graffiti hobby for Rone, his work is now in demand with people now paying for his art. “I think it is, someone called it once the Banksy effect. It’s unfortunate to say it, but when people authenticate something by spending a lot of money on it; you know there’s something about that, that gives other people more confidence that it’s actually worth something.”
While Rone doesn’t mind the title of a ‘street artist’, he considers himself more of a modern artist simply trying different mediums. Looking at the diverse crowd enjoying his modern art, Rone considers how far he has come since trading his work for fridges to now where families ask him to sign exhibition guides. “I’m really touched how much it’s kind of connected with people,” he says.
With luck on his side and an outstanding exhibition, Rone almost didn’t make it to Empty’s opening, having a near death experience with a ladder falling off the building’s roof. Rone managed to walk away relatively unscathed in time to witness the crowds coming to see his talent, before the building is destroyed by developers, scheduled shortly after its conclusion.
Written by Melissa Davis