On the Road to Wee Jasper with Ray Monde.
Tyger gallery owner, Martyn Pearce, speaks with artist Ray Monde about his upcoming exhibition 'The Road to Wee Jasper' in Yass.
How would you describe your work?
I see my works as emotional landscapes because I want to evoke a feeling of a place, rather than a direct representation of what I see. In a way my works are partially imagined likenesses as I take what I see in the natural landscape and exaggerate shapes and forms.
When our eyes look across a landscape we tend to edit out the noise and focus on the keystones of what makes that place magical. That’s what I try to do with my landscapes, focus on bold shapes, almost in an abstract way and then add in the detail that brings it back to the place we might recognise.
Tell me about ghostworking? What is it, why do you use it, and what does it add to the works?
Ghostworking is a technique I used with my collages where I overpaint magazine pages with thin glazes of acrylic paint so text and images ghost through the paint. It’s a technique that gives depth and added texture to my final artwork.
I developed the technique out of necessity. I used to work only in colours I found in magazine pages, using the primary colours printed on the page. As the sizes of my canvases increased, so did the time I spent trawling through magazines trying to find the exact colour I needed. Sometimes, I’d have to rework entire canvases because I couldn’t find the right colour.
I started overpainting the pages with thin glazes which gave me far better control over my colour palette and unexpectedly it created far greater depth and texture than in my previous works. There’s also these beautiful serendipitous moments when secret messages bleed through from the magazine pages below.
Tell me about where you create your work? What’s your studio space like?
When I first moved to Braidwood, I used to work in our old shearing shed which was open to the elements. It was roasting in summer and deathly cold in winter. And because I was working with glue, I’d often come into the studio in the morning and there’d be a fine layer of dust or feathers from Willy Wagtails or dead insects over the canvas.
In the end, we built a studio between the chook shed and the weatherboard house. The studio has great views along the Shoalhaven River, it’s well insulated and solar passive so in winter the concrete floor absorbs the winter sun in the day time and radiates it back to heat the studio at night. It’s a delicious space.
What inspires you?
I grew up on a farm on the Mid-North Coast of New South Wales which is a big dairy and beef cattle area. I loved playing in the creek and building cubbies with my brothers. That early life gave me a great appreciation for the Australian landscape and the need to be quiet in the land to really see things.
When you first step into a space in the bush, everything goes quiet – the birds, insects, frogs, fauna, everything is hushed waiting to see if you’re a threat. If you sit quietly enough and breathe and just be, everything starts moving around you again and you get to see and feel that space for what it is.
I guess the Australian landscape is my first love. I’m also inspired by the way other people see the world. I love to hear other people’s stories and getting out in the countryside is a great way for people to open up with those long languid rolling conversations that build and flow and ebb. I guess at its heart my work is telling a story, I want it to be your story. The narrative that you imbue in my work is its true story.
What’s the story behind your works at Tyger? Why Wee Jasper?
My brother and his wife raised their four sons in a weatherboard cottage, carved into the hillside on Burrinjuck Lake. Visiting them felt like the world had gone quiet, hearing your heart throb in your ears, and the far off chug of an outboard, trailing a lure.
Driving to Wee Jasper feels like driving into another world. The long, winding road hugging sheer hillsides. Through the trees bursting with the colours of autumn, you see the waters of the dam; blue, or a shimmering silver.
Within the layered collage is my attempt to pin down an ephemeral joy of that place, moments that slip and defy time. It’s a timeless land where we can escape and reconnect. They reflect both what we see and how we feel, respond, reflect in those places.
The vibrant colours and limited palette capture the heightened senses we have when we’re out in the wild, feeling a closeness with the landscape and the people with us.
Tell me about the figures in your works.
The tiny figures in the landscape are, in part, a reference to staffage in Old Master paintings, figures embarking on their daily activities that imbue the landscapes with life and create little narratives.
They’re a way to dramatise the scale or feeling of a landscape and for me, I’ll dwarf the figures to accentuate the impact and feeling of a place.
I like to think about what the figures might be saying, why they’re there, what the relationship is between them. In this series, the figures are male because fellas behave differently when they’re in the bush, out of the gaze of the wider world. They’re prepared to open up and have difficult conversations and resolve things that’s on their mind.
What do you hope people feel when they see your work?
I guess I want people to feel at home when they see my work. Even if they don’t recognise the place that inspired the work, I want them to find comfort and joy in the landscape.
I want them to be able to imagine the sounds and scents of the place and the jubilation we can feel when we’re in a space that carries a magnetism, a force, that we can’t quite put our finger on.
It’s almost like a serenity where the most important thing is to do nothing, just to be right here, right now. The works are a celebration of those moments in time which we yearn for in retrospect. I want us to nurture and enjoy those moments, in the moment, to slow down a bit and breathe.
The Road to Wee Jasper opens this week at Tyger.
Tyger is thrilled to welcome Ray Monde’s outstanding new show, The Road to Wee Jasper to the gallery this week.
Please register to join us for the opening event which takes place on Saturday 3 February, 2-4pm. The show will be opened by Yass Valley Mayor Allan McGrath, and will have delicious and refreshing gin and tonics provided by our opening event partner, the brilliant Wee Jasper Distillery.
The Road to Wee Jasper features 12 superb new works by Ray Monde, a Braidwood artist recently named as a one of the Bundanon Artists-in-Residence for 2024.
The Road to Wee Jasper runs from 2-18 February at Tyger. It’s a special show – don’t miss it.