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BLOG: RAW — Natural Born Artists

RAW: Natural Born Artists — Radiate

Words by Tahnee Robinson

There are a lot of bright young things at RAW’s August showcase, Radiate. It’s disconcerting, but not threatening — the whole event glows with optimism, and so it should. RAW: Natural Born Artists is an independent arts organisation, and their goal is to support and provide exposure to artists at the beginning of their careers. Under the canopy of colour-changing lanterns at Oh Hello!, surrounded by emerging creatives and their work, it feels good to be hopeful about local art.

RAW was born in 2005 in Los Angeles, and now it hosts monthly showcases in over 50 cities across the United States. Brisbane has the distinction of being of the first international city to get its own RAW collective, but not for long — RAW is set to arrive in Asia and Europe in 2013.

RAW showcases are multidisciplinary affairs; you can expect a bit of everything. It’s hard to critique and I don’t really want to; instead it seems better — more in the spirit — to wander in the haze of creativity. When James Murphy sang, “I’m losing my edge / to better looking people / with better ideas / and more talent /and they’re actually really, really nice,” this might have been what he meant.

Radiate’s interstitial music is provided by local DJ Harvey Satan, who does the rounds at Ric’s, X & Y, and various other Brisbane haunts. It’s pleasantly hip without being overwhelming — I count some Washed Out and some Planningtorock in the mix while I  check out the visual art displays.

Spiritfire Designs — photo by Alex Dobson

Spiritfire Designs — photo by Alex Dobson

There are contributions by Jasetronaut, Queensland College of Art student Ellie Anderson (who is selling t-shirts printed with her intricate designs) and Brisbane street artist asio. There’s also photography by Kate Jordan, Danni Ogilvie and Sebastian Robison. These graphic displays are all pleasantly unassuming, the prints lined up next to each other, mounted but often without frames, in temporary mini-galleries along the walls and alcoves. Some of them are for sale; some of them have already been sold.

There’s a runway set up, too, for the dancers and the fashion shows, but they won’t be on until later. By the time the dance troupe appears and the models are ready to walk, the audience will have relaxed enough to be sprawled about the temporary catwalk, drinking and enjoying the live music.

The structured part of Radiate opens with a short film by Simon Cottee, The Wedding. We’re directed to turn toward the bar to view the animated adaptation of a short story by local author Jack Vening projected along the wall. It’s well received by an attentive audience who haven’t had too much excitement or wine, yet. Next there’s a set by the band We Old Owls, who we are told are playing their very first gig tonight. Well it is about emerging art, isn’t it?

There’s a 20-minute break, and host Chantal P urges us to refresh our drinks and take in the art. I’m having trouble telling the artists from the audience, which is possibly the point. Wandering around, I’m struck by the disproportionate number of beautiful people in the place. Some are clearly here in support of the fashion cohort; I see a group of three women in particular, posing for a photograph. They’re stalking about the place, striking and immaculate, in a haute fashion sort of way. I’m tempted to ask them if I can take a photo myself, but I figure I’ll see them later.

The Roshambos — photo by Ryan Hoy

The next band is The Roshambos, who are not as startlingly new as We Old Owls. They’ve been playing around the place over the last year, including airtime through Triple J Unearthed. After another brief interlude we are introduced to dance troupe SEA (Siobhan, Elle and Anita), who perform a contemporary routine to a cover of Sweet Dreams. All three are trained in classical ballet and contemporary dance. Recently they’ve spent some time apart touring with different companies and this is their first opportunity to perform together in some time.

The evening peaks with the three fashion shows — short but dazzling, and probably the most overwhelming aspect of the night. Each show has a designer, makeup artist and hair stylist, and we are introduced to them, their history, and inspirations in rapid succession. First we have designs by Alexandra McGuire, make up by Claire Louise Leonard and hair by Kristy Furniss. On offer is a selection of brightly-patterned swimwear worn by smiley models with artful hair. One even does a little dance. Big hair by Rose Di Battista is the order of the day for the Spiritfire Designs show, with makeup by Jade Pattis. The models are draped in black, sporting accessories made from old LP records and electric-coloured lips. The final run is a series of sleek, black pieces by Stark and Giles, featuring contrasting textures and understated makeup by Cocozero Maquillage. The hair, by Megan Joy, is coiffed into sleek, intricate designs and decorated liberally with silver foil.

Rather suddenly the evening is over, though audience members mill about finishing their drinks and taking a final look at the exhibition. On my way out I realise that those striking girls — the ones who looked ready to sit for a Vogue spread — they were just in the audience.

RAW: Natural Born Artists runs a showcase at the end of every month out of Oh Hello! in the Valley. http://www.rawartists.org/brisbane

TAHNEE ROBINSON is a Brisbane-based writer. She is OSP’s visual arts, film and fashion editor.

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About Zenobia Frost

Zenobia Frost is a Brisbane writer. Her work has been published in Voiceworks, Overland, The Lifted Brow and The Guardian. Her debut poetry collection, Salt and Bone, is out through Walleah Press. @zenfrost

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