Leisure & Culture #62

Let the soul of a space stays


Written by Kit Chan
Translated by Joel Wong
Photos by Rone

Treading on the ruins, feeling desolate and barren. When the birds had flown, nature takes over through the emptiness, and it seems the kind of vitality remains has nothing to do with humans anymore.

But once you look upon the walls, you will see a woman's silent and colorless face with piercing eyes, staring through the time and space where the sense of reality becomes indefinite. Some form of souls remains, to witnessing the exploration of beauty and decay.

Paint female portrait on the walls of deserted space is the signature art form of Australian artist Rone (Tyrone Wright). Just take a look at these faces of mysterious women on the wall, almost in an intimate sense, they draw you in and subject a private moment in such abandoned space, beauty juxtaposed with decay.

Rone is the hottest street artist in Australia in recent years. He has begun painting in Melbourne's skate parks since 2002 and his work gradually spread around the city.

In 2004, mysterious women portraits painted largely on brick walls under footbridges and alongside footpaths appeared, which soon caught enormous attention. Rone named the series Jane Doe, the unknown and unidentified female. It reminds us that life has existed everywhere, even in different timelines.

Since then, Jane Doe's face is occasionally popped up on corners with ruins and rubbles around the city, respond to withering with life, yet examining the dark side of the city.

"I am just putting a human element back in it." Rone felt that if a particular painting contained a soul, then it belonged to that particular time and space. Over time, nothing is inevitable, but the art will be immersed with space, any signs of life have either be altered or destroyed by the next intruder.

"There is no protection at all with street art, and you can only leave it out there upon completion. That is the fragility of the medium." Rone believes some art only exists for a moment, which is the most fascinating part of the work.

Most people intent on spotting a sense of contrary in artworks, for example, beauty and decadent, youth and decay, etc., but creators genuinely want to explore the idea of "lost."

Like Rone, with every mysterious female face, there’s facilitating questions like “What has been losing here? What has gone?”

In recent years, Rone has come out of the underground and ruins to the mainstream. He began collaborating with brands for more commercial creative works. For example, we see Jane Doe’s faces on hotels or residential projects, standing in a brighter and modern place.

Intriguingly, Rone often been invited to paint and hold exhibitions at abandoned buildings or spaces that will soon disappear. In 2016, Melbourne's Old Star Lyric Theatre commissioned him to paint on the stage just one week before it demolished. Once again, with a woman's face, Rone demonstrates the ideas of beauty and decay marbled throughout his work, and had become the last memory of the monument.

Also, the owner of an abandoned children’s hospital of thirty years asked Rone to transform the place into an art gallery that is so haunting and gives people chills. Rone came to the Eastern District of Hong Kong in 2013, painted a face in the gallery of a factory building that was about to be demolished. Paid or not, Rone spontaneously initiates dialogue to the urban space with the expression of a mysterious woman.

Some say such artistic acts do not contribute to conserve and revitalize a city's heritage. But Rone has a different take on it; what he wants to explore through his work is the aesthetics of existence and disappearance.

"Nothing lasts forever. It doesn't matter how beautiful it is." That is how Rone sums up his works. There’s a kind of beauty, quietly subversive, but once encountered it lingers on in your mind forever.

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