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Rone: 'Most of my works have been destroyed'

Australian street artist Rone transforms disused buildings – former libraries, paper mills, train stations – with spectacular installations

Painting of a woman's face in a room

Artwork by Rone, featured in My Dog Sighs' guest edit

Known for his ‘Jane Doe’ paintings of beautiful women, which examine the tension “between beauty and decay”, Rone – an internationally renowned street artist based in Melbourne, Australia – has been creating immersive art installations in abandoned buildings since 2016.  

His latest exhibition, Time, took over the long-abandoned third floor of Flinders Street Station in Melbourne from October 2022 to April 2023. “When I go into abandoned spaces, it’s what’s left behind that tells the story,” he says. “Time tells many stories, through objects, through sound, and through the character of the existing building.” 

A woman's face painted into shelves
Artwork by Rone

The theme of this issue is ‘reclaiming the lost’ – what does that mean to you? 

Reclaiming the lost for me is very much what I’m doing with these buildings, finding these disused or abandoned spaces and bringing back an emotion into them, and highlighting the beauty within the fragility of what’s left.  

It’s truly incredible to witness the impact my installations have on people who visit these spaces. Hearing the genuine stories that are sparked by the environment, witnessing the personal connections formed within the spaces I’ve worked with, it never fails to fascinate me. 

These memories, sparked by my art, become a powerful tool in reclaiming what was once forgotten, allowing us to reconnect with what has been lost. 

At least one of your works – at the Alphington Paper Mill – was created in the knowledge it would be demolished soon afterwards. Your street artworks are open to the elements – or to be painted over. Is there a different meaning to works that you know may be destroyed?  

Mural of a woman's face
Artwork by Rone

Most of my works have been destroyed, especially in the last few years, but that’s never really changed since working on the street. Everything you do has a very small lifespan; you don’t really expect it to last forever but you’re pretty happy when it remains untouched for a few years.

I think what I’m doing now – highlighting the fact that my work is very ephemeral – opens people up to what I find exciting about street art and graffiti: that it is there in this very moment and it may not be there tomorrow, so you have to capture it or appreciate it right now because it might be your last chance. 

Do you think that art – and street art in particular – has a role in shaping how people experience the world around them? 

When I travel in and see a city that is vibrant with real street art and graffiti (not just the kind you find as the result of a mural festival), I know that city has a real voice and something to say. A mural festival does also signal that it’s a community that wants to encourage and support this kind of art but theeir motivations may be unclear. It’s more concerning when I go to a foreign city and there’s no sign of street, art or graffiti anywhere. It feels like there’s a lack of community voice.

Find out more about Rone here

My Dog Sighs Big Issue cover

This article is part of an art special edition of The Big Issue, curated by My Dog Sighs and featuring his exclusive artwork on the cover. It is on the streets from 10 July. Find your local vendor here. Throughout the week we will be sharing more stories from creatives, explorers and activists who are reclaiming the lost. Read those stories here.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.To support our work buy a copy!

If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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