With all of its neighbouring homes long since bulldozed, the weatherboard cottage is one of the last buildings standing in the middle of an extensive residential building site in Melbourne’s inner north. Now on its last legs, marooned in a sea of progress awaiting its inevitable end, the house serves as a potent symbol of defiance in the face of relentless change.
After the developer saw Rone’s Empty exhibition in the soon-to-be-demolished Star Lyric Theatre in Fitzroy, the artist was offered the chance to “do something with the space before it disappeared.” Rone says he was “in straight away”, which resulted in him being granted access to the house and given free rein to do as he pleased; without the usual hazards common to the street art genre.
Over a series of weeks, surrounded by destruction and construction, Rone transformed the interior of the early 1900s weatherboard house into what he describes as a “fantasy film set”. Part art exhibition, part installation, The Omega Project saw the artist produce a series of his signature ‘Jane Doe’ portraits on each of the home’s walls – the striking beauty and intimacy of which provide an uneasy energy amid the brokenness and decay of the abandoned house.
Heightening the eerie, cinematic feel of the space, he also teamed up with interior stylist Carly Spooner, to recreate the archetypal mid-century Australian interior landscape – chenille bedspreads, wood-grained TV set and all.
“This is a bit of a fantasy project for me,” Rone explains. “These are things that I think a lot of us grew up with. It’s not what you think of as classic Australiana, but it feels instantly recognisable as Australian. There’s so much about the interiors that I think a lot of people will identify with.” On one level the experience of walking through the house feels sentimental, yet it is overlaid with an undeniable sense of melancholy and fragility; bringing mortality and the inescapable passing of time into sharp focus with a sombre, dusty thud.
“The concept of creating something beautiful within the context of decay and decline is central to the experience of any street artist,” Rone explains. “As is the idea that whatever you create might be gone the next day.” “For the artist, street art is all about embracing that transience and impermanence. And for the audience, it’s about seeing it (and taking photos of it) while you can – which highlights a major shift in how we now consume art,” he says.
“Because it’s often so short-lived, street art tends to exist more through the ways that people document it; through photographs, prints and social media.
“Documenting art has become an inextricable part of our experience of viewing it. And knowing that all this work will be knocked down in a matter of weeks acts as a pretty strong motivator for people to come and experience it before it’s gone.”