Melbourne based artist Rona Green is highly celebrated for her dynamic and highly engaging anthropomorphic prints, paintings, drawings and ‘poppets’ (soft sculptural dolls in a diorama format) that explore ideas about the nature of individuality. For more than two decades Green has adapted and honed a unique style of portraiture where human and animal features are fused to create a host of extraordinary imaginary, yet delightfully familiar characters.
Green’s prolific output of work has culminated in an impressive exhibition history. Her highly successful survey show, ‘Champagne taste and lemonade pockets’ toured Bendigo Art Gallery and Benalla Art Gallery during 2017-2018, and was followed with a solo exhibition at Australian Galleries, Melbourne.
She currently has works in a couple of group exhibitions, ‘Turn three times before laying down’ at Gallery 152 in York WA and ‘My Monster: the human animal hybrid’ at RMIT Gallery, Melbourne. Among various other exciting projects Green is exhibiting at Solander Gallery in New Zealand later this year and working toward a solo exhibition at Burrinja Cultural Centre for 2020.
When did you know that you wanted to pursue life as an artist?
Like a lot of kids I enjoyed spending time making things to occupy myself whilst growing up and this inclination has continued over the years. It was in year 12 at high school, spurred on by my art teacher James Watt, that I consciously first thought that perhaps becoming an artist was a viable option for the future.
Who or what inspires your art the most?
It is difficult to pinpoint a singular person or thing. Really it is a matter of absorbing stacks of stuff that is around and filtering it to try and make some sense out of everything. From looking at my work it is probably fairly easy to tell what is of most interest to me: animals, appearances, stories.
Artists whose work I admire include Alberto Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, Francis Bacon, John Brack, David Hockney, Peter Blake, Diane Arbus, Philip Guston, Ida Applebroog, Leon Golub, and Ed Paschke. And I am particularly keen on Egyptian art and the Dutch Golden Age. Not to mention TV…
You work across a range of media, including printmaking, painting, drawing and textiles. What do you enjoy about working in this varied way?
When I was young my grandmother and great aunt taught me assorted crafts, and my great uncle triggered an interest in photography. I’ve always been curious about the diverse ways pictures are made. And I’m quite a tactile person; I love the feel of the materials. Really I suppose I enjoy working with various techniques as it allows my mind to think about things in different ways.
Do you have a favourite medium or technique, and why?
By now I’ve pretty much honed in on linocut as my favourite printmaking technique. I appreciate linoleums reductive and seductive qualities.
Tell us about the most special or favourite piece of work you have made. Why is it meaningful to you?
The most emotionally charged piece of work I have created that means a great deal to me is a hand coloured linocut print titled ‘The Surgeon’. It pays homage to my very handsome long-time feline companion Googie, who is now deceased. He lived with me for 17 years and I will always grieve the loss of his presence even though he could be a little shit.
Clearly, animals are a central theme in your work and a big part of your life. If you were an animal, what would you be?
Well, I have recently been made aware of the Tardigrade. Now there is a creature to be admired. It has a lot of positive attributes that would be of value. It is worth Google-ing if you are unfamiliar with them!
Do you listen to music while you work?
Most definitely. Music sets a pace for the task at hand. If contemplating ideas or concentrating on cutting a linoleum block or painting details, the music selection needs to be somewhat relaxing yet also stimulating, e.g. Morrissey, Kraftwerk, The Cure, Supertramp, Depeche Mode, Rockets. If I’m printing an edition of linocuts or hand colouring them, or something else a bit methodical I like a strong beat, e.g. The Dictators, Mojo Nixon, RuPaul, Pet Shop Boys, Jimmy Buffett, X Cops. When I’m cleaning up after printing I usually play Spandau Ballet!
What is the best advice you could give about living a creative life?
As an artist you are often making your way in the dark, so to speak. There are no hard and fast rules on how to go about being one. I think you best learn from observing others and what they do. Early on I really appreciated mentoring from Rosalind Atkins and Deborah Klein. They gave me their time, advice, and the opportunity to watch them work. Both are now dear friends. You absolutely need a supportive network of like-minded individuals to sustain yourself as an artist.
Rachel Derum is an artist, arts writer and curator who has worked with Arts Project Australia, the Australian Tapestry Workshop and Kick Gallery, and continues to write for Australian Galleries, Melbourne and Sydney. Rachel has held solo exhibitions in Melbourne and has been included in group exhibitions nationally and in Barcelona, Norway, Edinburgh and London. Visit her website, or find her on Instagram under @rachel_derum.