I wasn't sure just what to expect when I entered the hidden nook that is the Backwoods Gallery in Collingwood, to see the Reka Open Studio exhibition on Wednesday.
As a graffiti novice, I was intrigued by the concept of street art within a traditional gallery setting. The work of Reka was a breathtaking introduction into an underground scene full of intensity, talent and comradeship.
The industrial-chic venue played host to graffiti artist Reka's last Melbourne show before the spray virtuoso moves abroad. The open studio setting displayed paintings and mixed media of Reka, an artist with a spectacular ten year career of refacing the streets of Melbourne.
The work itself showcased a new body of work which is painted solely on found objects. The works were often sprayed on raw cuts of sheet metal or crushed materials found in abandoned warehouses. I could not help but to admire the ease in which stubborn sheet metal was folded delicately before being sprayed with careful techniques and attention to detail.
The artwork had an inspiring sense of second chance, making something mundane and forgotten, into a piece of art. Even the parchment paper walls were ripped and raw, only to expose something carefully crafted and new.
Reka also included some of his paintings from the past decade, which were violently bold canvases featuring mythical creatures. The images were illustrative and included detailed imagery that kept your eyes lingering.
When I initally entered the gallery I saw an almost technicolour array of hair colours, beards, hoodies and eccentric personalities. Being that my knowledge of street art is fairly limited to watching Exit Through The Gift Shop and loitering in public spaces staring at walls, I felt a little intimated by the 'scene'.
Often there is a certain pretension that is synonymous with art exhibitions, just as there is generally a certain exclusivity that comes with any niche underground scene. Yet on the contrary, this scene was nothing but incredibly approachable and embracing of all. At one point, a main equipped with an outstanding moustache even came over to me, nodded, and handed me a beer. A silent transaction of pure cool. I was to later find out that this very man was a graffiti founding forefather in the Melbourne scene.
Over all, the night was an induction into a world of true underground Melbourne talent and an endearing goodbye to their rebellious friend.
Be sure to check out the Backwoods Gallery for upcoming events and exhibitions of art that is bound to be interesting.