Last week hundreds of people came down to Backwoods Gallery to see off one of Melbourne’s most prolific street artists, James Reka. Before moving to Europe next month, he put on a pop up show that tied together all of the loose ends of his decade long career. Featuring a final fresh body of exhibited work alongside selected works from 2004 to 2006, fans came down in hordes to pay their final respects to one of Melbourne’s finest.
The new body of work was exclusively painted on rusted found objects such as spray cans, corrugated sheet metal and antique gold-mining pans that were found walking the train lines and salvaged from abandoned warehouses. Referencing his beginnings as a graffiti artist, the walls were strewn with scrunched butchers paper to create texture and act as an urban framework for the works. It was a process-driven concept, with Reka organically using every aspect of the spray cans to create artworks, from turning the paper labels into collages to painting the shell of the can itself.
In addition to this new body of work, Reka pulled a large collection of old works out of the vault from some of his original shows in the early to mid 2000s. Many of these canvases haven’t been seen for six or seven years and produced a huge, esteeming response from the crowd. Displaying works that have been painted over a decade apart, the audience could see Reka’s transformation from being known as having the strongest graffiti inspired line-work in Australia to his now renowned free-form canvases. Whether it is one of his iconic characters from the early 2000s or an incredibly intricate new work, Reka’s style is revered within the community and has continues to influence younger artists. There is no doubt it is commendable to already have such a strong retrospective of work and such a huge turn out of admirers in what is guaranteed to be a long and illustrious career.
Australia is losing one of their best to the bright lights and bigger walls of Europe, but there is no doubt that Reka’s legacy will continue both on the laneway and gallery walls for years to come. Gone, but not forgotten.- Text by Georgia Frances King.
Some images courtesy of Everguide & Kompound blogs.
A selection of works from the exhibition: