Fitzroy-based Reko Rennie is a profilic artist whose bold, graphic work across a variety of mediums explores his indigenous heritage and association to the Kamilaroi people. Reko uses traditional geometric patterning that represents his community – in particular the repeating diamond shape, which he describes as a sort of ‘family crest’ for the Kamilaroi people. Alongside this distictive emblem, Reko often employs a recurring crown motif – a symbol of sovereignty, a nod to American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and a reference to Reko’s own roots in street art.
What is interesting about Reko is how incredibly versatile he is. From paintings on canvas and board, to large scale public murals and even sculpture, Reko seems to steadfastly avoid ever being pigeonholed in just one category. The common thread throughout all his work, however, is a continual exploration of aboriginal identity in a contemporary context:
“It was New York graffiti that attracted me and provided me with the medium to first express myself. From there, I started looking at the diamond geometric iconography of the Kamilaroi people and in a western-sense the diamond shape I use through my work is a lot like a family crest – the diamond is my family crest.
The path to becoming an artist was never something laid out for me. There was no progression from school to study art and then full-time art. I had a range of jobs, many different experiences and did graffiti. I had never wanted to go to art school when I was younger, as I thought I could paint and draw so perhaps it was better to learn something else. So I studied journalism, worked as a journalist to pay the bills and painted in my spare time. There were many times I would create all night and then roll into work at The Age. I soon realised where my passion was and that was when I decided to do art full-time.
There are many things that lead me to create the work I do; from my family history, my passion for making and at other times I may simply want to say something or provoke thought.”
Last may, his monumental mural Trust the 2%ers opened the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art’s, while in September La Trobe University unveiled four architectural totem poles designed by Rennie to herald its new molecular science institute, the first sculptural commission the university has undertaken since the 1980s. ”There’s a level of self-investigation in Reko’s work in that he’s trying to find a place for himself in an urban environment as an Aboriginal man and he doesn’t profess to have the answers,” says La Trobe’s museum curator Vincent Alessi. ”I think he strikes that balance really well and his work is generally quite striking and has this magnetism.’
Above: Reko Rennie, Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay/Gummaroi peoples, Australia b.1974 | Trust the 2% 2013 | Synthetic polymer paint on wall; synthetic polymer paint on MDF | Site-specific commission for ‘My Country, I Still Call Australia Home: Contemporary Art from Black Australia’ | Courtesy and ©: The artist.
I first became aware of Reko’s work after seeing ‘Always was, Always will be’, his large scale mural on the exterior of the T2 building in Taylor Square, Sydney, Australia (pictured above). This amazing work was commissioned as part of the City of Sydney’s Streetware program for 2012, and again employs Reko’s distinctive geometric diamonds, referencing the traditional markings of the Kamilaroi people. The transformation of the facade was undertaken by Reko in collaboration with Cracknell & Lonergan architects. – breathtaking!
Above: Until November, Reko’s latest Regalia, is an installation at Personal Structures: Crossing Borders, a collateral event of the 56th Venice Biennale presented by blackartprojects at Palazzo Mora in Venice and supported by Urban Art Projects.
Curated by the Global Art Affairs Foundation, the exhibition draws together established and emerging artists from across the globe whose work responds to the concepts of time, space and existence.
Take a look at Reko’s AUSiMED art work we are very proudly presenting!