Review – RAW: natural born artists launch, Canberra
“This song is loud, like Academy is usually like,” jokes musician Michael Liu onstage, before picking up a violin.
For those unfamiliar with Canberra’s clubbing haunts, here’s a quick rundown of Academy: vodka raspberries; ‘4some Thursdays’; foam parties. An unlikely location, then, for a night showcasing Canberra’s local artists. It’s probably the first — and maybe the last — time we’ll see an eclectic mix of dancers, circus performers, painters, and musos gathered under its disco balls.
Liu was one performer at RAW: natural born artists, which made its Canberra debut at Academy on 4 September.
RAW is an independent arts organisation that hosts events in the U.S., Australia, Canada, and the U.K. with an emphasis on local and independent artists. Over twenty local artists were chosen to perform in Canberra, from circus artists Poncho Circus, to dancer Liz Lea, to guitarist Azim Zain.
Walking into Academy, I was first struck by a giant portrait of Skywhale. “It Came”, the poster reads like a 1950s horror movie, complete with a wide-eyed woman and a warning caption: “not for the conservative”. The artist, Leafy Sea Dragon (Mick Ashley), stood next to his collection of his quirky posters, postcards, and fridge magnets, which feature iconic Canberran sights: The Melbourne Building; the Old Bus Depo Markets; Garema Place.
Other artists like Bonnie McArthur, painted portraits and talked excitedly in another nearby corner, while musicians and performers took to the stage on the floor below.
For McArthur, painting on the night was a highlight of RAW. “I found it refreshing that the organisers allowed me to paint freely on certain works whilst exhibiting, without classifying it as a spectacle or ‘live art’,” she told lip.
McArthur paints, sculpts, and draws in Canberra, and says she’s impressed by Canberra’s evolving arts scene.
“It seems that the once street art dominated stage has become old news, various street artists even changing their own style in-line with other mediums and finally turning their back on ‘tagging.’ A relief, so say some. And as ever, Canberra’s art scene still remains excessively versatile, each style sui generis in it’s own way and with more than enough room for emerging talent,” she said.
I wouldn’t be entirely honest if I didn’t say I have a few issues with RAW. While its organisers did their best to make the event seem like a hub of natural, spontaneous creativity, the night came across as a little confected. The MC plugged merchandise at every available opportunity, and I later found out that each artist had to bring twenty people (at $15 a ticket each) in order to perform on the night.
Despite all this, RAW deserves credit for bringing together local artists and showcasing their wares. And there was a lot of emerging talent on show at RAW, with Michel Liu, Poncho Circus, and Liz Lea crowd favourites.
“You don’t normally hear blues on violin, so when you do, it’s fresh,” I overheard somebody refer to Liu, whose playful violin-and-beats set was a highlight.