With the opening of the Venice Biennale
almost upon us, Andrew Varano, an Emerging Curator in the Australia Council Professional Development Program, took the time to chat with artist Reko
Rennie about his upcoming collateral exhibition at the Biennale.
Reko Rennie is an artist from Melbourne who belongs to the Kamilaroi people of
northern New South Wales. His work plays off dynamically contrasting cultural
reference points, from traditional geometric patterning of the Kamilaroi
people, to New York graffiti, to Pop and abstraction. Next month he will be
presenting a new large-scale work as part of Personal Structures, an expansive international group exhibition which will take place
in Venice as a collateral event in this year’s Venice Biennale between May 9th
and November 22nd. Addressing the exhibition’s overall theme of ‘time, space,
existence’ his work will aim to stand as a powerful assertion of Aboriginal
sovereignty at a time of increasing political tension in this area back home.
can you tell us about the work you will be showing in Venice?
The work is a statement about
Aboriginal royalty and sovereignty. Given the current government and ultra
idiotic policies, it seemed a timely reminder. Three hand drawn symbols - the crown, the
diamond and the Aboriginal flag - are presented as an emblematic statement
about the original royalty of Australia. The crown symbol is both in
homage to my graffiti roots and also pays due respect to Jean-Michel Basquiat,
but most importantly symbolises sovereign status. The crown reminds us that
Aboriginal people are the original sovereigns of this country. The diamond symbol is emblematic
of my connection to the Kamilaroi/Gamilaroi people. This diamond symbol is
similar to a family crest; it is a part of me. The hand-drawn Aboriginal flag in
the form of a graffiti tag pays respect to all Aboriginal people, from
environments both urban and remote, and anywhere in between.
Urban Art Projects have assisted
me in realising the work and it has been made on painted aluminium, using
relief type symbols.
some ways your ‘Regalia’ can be read as a type of flag or banner. Do you see it
in this way?
Yes it is. ‘Regalia’ is a declaration and a
reminder there was a pre-existing royalty, that being Aboriginal people.
produce a lot of installations and wall works in situ in gallery spaces. However
in this case you are installing a large singular work in the entrance of Palazzo
Mora. How do you expect this context will work for or against your work?
Like any site specific work I make, I’ve
selected the site and made a work according to the site as I’d rather have my
work in a public environment that can be seen by everyone passing in and out of
Palazzo Mora, compared to being one of 50 artists inside.
work references Pop, Neo Geo and New York graffiti, but it is also dependent on
a local iconography. You have started exhibiting more overseas in the last
several years, is your work interpreted differently in an international
I think any work is interpreted differently
when not shown at home, but in an international context people are well
informed and the work transcends these barriers.
can you say about the timeliness of your work for Personal Structures, given
the recent debates and protests surrounding Aboriginal sovereignty in
Unfortunately today, it’s easier to
dispossess people and force the closure of remote or regional Aboriginal communities
based on economic rationalisation, the economic rationalisation relating to
natural resources. So it’s a timely reminder.
else are you personally looking forward to seeing in Venice during this year’s
I’m looking forward to seeing many artists
but definitely interested in seeing “The Bridges of Graffiti” exhibition and as much as I can while I’m there.
Andrew Varano is an artist, curator and
writer from Perth, Western Australia. Follow Andrew on twitter at @andrewvarano
Image credit: Reko Rennie
aluminium, steel, synthetic polymers
240 x 560 cm
Courtesy the artist and Blackartprojects