Monday, 3 October 2011

Guest blog from Lyndon Riggall: Portrait of a Palace

The instructions Scot has given me to reach ‘The Rat Palace’ make me feel a bit like I’m about to enter a secret society.  In fact, they’re necessary.  The building itself is large but quite hidden, and I’m sneaking past church cars and construction signs to reach it.
It’s five-thirty on a Thursday night, and most of Hobart will be at home, listening to the inane chatter of a background TV and cutting up carrots to get started on dinner.  These guys are smoking and creating.  A couple of them have been there all day, the others have jobs and they sneak in and out – it’s a clear vibe from all of them though that this isn’t work.  This is a place of experiment. 
The Rat Palace has been variously inhabited by a number of Hobart’s artists since at least seven years ago.  You can see the layers of paint on every surface of the place, making the room itself an artwork - like a massive scale version of a kindergarten marble painting.  There is a history of risk trickling in multi-coloured blood down the walls - and it’s a history that Scot, Matt, Callum, Joel, Rob and Nicola are now part of.  It doesn’t stop at this floor either, and downstairs local bands come in of an evening and practice.  The Frustrations play some nights,” Rob tells me.  “Those are good nights to be here.”
For now, the CD player is playing Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Storm Coming’:  I could paint a picture with a pen, but a song will only scratch the skin, and there’s still places I haven’t been, because I know what’s in there is already in the air.
I take a look around the place.  One of the things I love about the environment Scot has set up with these guys is its variety.  In one corner there are detailed paintings of Victorian-looking gentleman in coats and cravats.  In another, a mannequin of Jesus is weeping black tears – the church next door caught through the window behind it.  Matt is working on some collaborative drawings, and is sketching a series of long green tentacles down the page.  I wonder as I’m looking around what some of the more aging, antiquarian population of Hobart might say about the place.  I feel like they would probably say it’s ‘angry’.  I don’t buy that though - sure, some of the paintings have a brief flash of the middle finger about them, (I catch one out of the corner of my eye subtitled ‘Facebook is God’) but the more I look around the place the more I start to feel that each generation gets the art it deserves, and these guys are capturing beautifully the chaos which we’ve had to learn to accept about modern life, rather than the false sensibility that defined art for so many generations before them.  Callum is a great example of this – he is slowly and meticulously drawing a massive pile of auto parts and abandoned junk.  I’m stunned by the detail, and have to remind myself that this is rubbish; it’s the stuff we’re ashamed of - that we discard - turned into something beautiful.
Scot tells me they’ll be doing a new exhibition downstairs soon.  It’ll be called If I’d had more bullets I would’ve taken Warhol with me.  Matt laughs.  “That just about sums everything up”. 
They promise they’ll fling me an email when they send out the invitations.
“You’ll know when it’s from us,” Rob tells me, “It’ll be in French.”
I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

Lyndon Riggall is a young writer and student, living in Hobart and studying English and Classical Literature at the University of Tasmania.  He tries to divide his time equally between writing works for pure enjoyment, and for rigorous artistic worth, but often can't remember which pile is which.
He can be found on Twitter, or at his blog A Quick Word
Claire Needham, photographer, can be contacted through her website here and also on Twitter
Scot Cotterell's work is inter-disciplinary and concerned with responses to technology and media. His work uses sound, video, image and object to create environments that reflect upon cultural phenomena. His website can be found here.

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