Uncovering Lost Relics with Luke Rion October 22 2019

Luke Rion is a New Zealand-born an artist living and working in Melbourne. Luke's practice explores the duality of using environment to describe character and the character to suggest environment.

In the weeks leading up to his show Lost Relics, we spoke to Luke about his fascination with gaming consoles, his favourite medium and the concept behind his show.

Interview by Viet-My Bui. Photos supplied by Luke Rion.

Tell us a bit about your background, and journey towards making art.

I loved watching Saturday morning cartoons as a kid. At 7am I would douse my Weetbix in Milo (we weren’t allowed Coco Pops), plonk myself down, and devour two hours of Agro’s Cartoon Connection and my soggy chocolate mess. After it was all over, I grabbed as much paper as possible, and started scribbling, recreating the cartoons like a sanctimonious ritual. I just needed these stories to keep going. When I got my first handheld console, a Game Gear, I obsessively drew the box art of the games. My whole path as an artist has stemmed from this simple child-like love and it has simply never stopped.

Your works have an illustrative, yet painterly quality. What led you to this style?

I don’t really know. If I were to guess, the way in which I paint is a cocktail of my personality and an emotional reaction to colour: the obsessive need to articulate light and a feeling of a scientific expedition. I feel like the process and outcome is like a big pot of soup to which someone keeps adding a little bit more pepper, a few more bay leaves and another chunk of pumpkin – sometimes too salty, sometimes delicious! I’ve found painting helps strengthen the feeling of something being present, but simultaneously not entirely articulated. I think it is very reflective of my personality, partly in the room, partly in my head.

What are your favourite mediums?

Gouache is my favourite. It's just so versatile, so fragile, reactive and super matte. I also love a good pigment-heavy acrylic, too. I work in an art store so I'm quickly learning from colleagues and customers new ways of approaching the same mediums, and unfamiliar mediums too. It's the best form of art schooling.

You seem to have a fascination with gaming consoles. Tell us about that.

My fascination simply stems from a nostalgic vein of thought. As a child, my Super Nintendo felt like an interactive cartoon world that I could go into at any time. The console itself became a symbol and gateway to this world. When these consoles were created it was in a time in technology when there was still a large disparity, visually, between what was suggested on the box cover art of a game and what was delivered when you played the actual game. I loved that space of expectation as a kid – intensely staring at the box art, the instruction booklet, and flipping through all the different moves of the character, illustrated with such style. It just made my imagination go crazy. As an adult I love every part of these gaming machines and they still serve as a strong gateway to these memories. Looking at these consoles 20 years on, I find there’s this duality of what I coveted as a child and the actuality of what it is. A sort of double vision.

What are some of your favourite games?

A lot of these come from childhood love, so I won’t got too crazy. The Legend of Zelda is by far the king in my book. A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker and Breath of the Wild. They are like a fine wines that will only get better with time. I won’t go any deeper because one amazing game tends to lead another game. But also worth mentioning are Metroid Prime, Super Mario 64, Sonic, Sonic 2, Tony Hawks.

I know gaming is deeply immersive and addictive, and is a big muse for your artwork. How do you find the time to dedicate to making art and playing games?

So I approach it in a seasonal fashion and try to organise my time well. Admittedly I might get hooked into a game once in a while,  but it’s mostly trying to only pick a few games to play and respect that there are always going to be more than I can ever get through. I’m getting more particular the crustier I get. Painting consoles makes me appreciate the memories and experiences of playing games and playing games makes me appreciate the feeling and child like love of experiencing a game developer’s  world. Fez comes to mind when I think of this.

Describe your workspace.

I am currently working from a home studio. One half of my desk is dedicated to my paint set up, the other half is filled with my collection of mini consoles, my Switch and Xbox. Lots of open books for reference. It’s small but it works.

Where does your inspiration come from?

A lot is found in nature, a lot is found online and in art books. I love production art and background art for games and animation. Both have really inspired this show. I also try to get out once and a while, and do some studies of the city to keep my wits about me.

What is the story behind Lost Relics?

It really stems from a sense of loss, how something so vivid and so relevant as a kid just becomes discarded. I find the ritual we have with technology has changed. It's less tactile, it doesn’t carry the weight of chunky cartridge slammed into a console slot, or a controller cable pushed into a port. I can’t articulate exactly what is but I think its a cocktail of loss, abandonment, forgotten childhood dreams and the vast emotional space in between. I believe this show is a love letter to the past, treating the console as this object of beauty, painted with such feverous intensity like it was a portrait of a late relative.

How do you see your craft evolving over the next few years?

I keep a notepad next to me while I work. I have a long list. I feel an obsessive need to follow this path with consoles, maybe more in a surreal narrative or maybe more on a molecular level. I think this show has been a wonderful opportunity to really hone my skills and cut away a lot of fuzz in my process. I plan to keep sharpening the blade.

Are there any projects you are keen to tackle in the future?

More shows. Maybe some experimental online projects where people write to me, and I paint them a console in response. I like the idea of making my process more interactive with people.

Thanks so much for your time, Luke! 

Lost Relics by Luke Rion
1–10 November 2019
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