Melbourne, Victoria, Australia born 1974
Message Stick (Green)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, hand pressed textile foil, screen print on Belgium linen
Reko Rennie is one of a number of exciting street artists emerging from Victoria and finding their way to gallery walls and collections. His work reflects his passion for being a graffiti artist and explores weighty issues such as identity, justice, history and sense of place in an urban environment. His aesthetic draws on his Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay/Gummaroi identity and the symbols and designs of his people. Rennie has also used neon and hypercolour metallic foils in his latest series of paintings to represent the bright neon lights of the city. Traditional Kamilaroi diamond-shaped clan designs are evident in Message stick, in both the dynamic painting featuring a central image of a spray can and the ‘totem pole’ constructed from multiple spray cans.
Rennie here explores the idea of the spray can as message stick. Message sticks were traditionally used by Aboriginal people to transport messages and to allow safe passage for the messenger through different clan country. This idea also reflects the attitudes of people who choose to deliver their messages through graffiti in today’s urban environments. However, Rennie takes it a step further in Message stick: the spray can becomes not only the central focus of the painting but also for the composition of a cultural object, the totem pole. As Rennie suggests in an artist statement, he ‘monumentalises the spray can, placing it above the role of a functional artist’s tool, imbuing it with the gravity of a modern cultural artefact’.
Message stick will deliver an enduring impact when it goes on display in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander galleries in mid September. It is a fine addition to the Gallery’s collection of contemporary Australian art.
Tina Baum Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art
in artonview, issue 71, Spring 2012