In June 1988 we adopted a new venue for our performances. ‘Mondo Showrooms’ was owned by Bridget and Ian Sutherland, who had been long time family friends and used the place to promote their pre-fabricated furniture retail business. A space in the main room was partially cleared and our easel and drop sheets erected over the expanse of pristine flooring. It was a white, light and airy room with the sterile odour of plastic and new carpet that seemed more suited to a salesman’s pitch and glossy brochure than an art happening. With Joyce now replaced briefly by her cousin Betty, then by Andrew Angus, we commenced a series of demonstrations culminating in an exhibition in March 1989.
Having put signage up at Theatre Place, we managed to attract a modest audience on a few occasions that supplemented our more reliable visitors. As a venue, Mondo provided an air of formality, which enhanced our performances at a time when studio rehearsal did not appeal. Upon the conclusion of the demonstrations and exhibition at Roar 2 Studios, there was a feeling of ‘what shall we do now?’. However at no point did we entertain the idea of stopping the performances, on the contrary we often indulged in the dream of making it ‘big!, and taking it further, but there was no specific plan, no systematic set of goals underpinning our progress. We just seemed to lurch from one project to the next when outside commitments did not clutter the schedule.
Andrew Angus who joined us at this time was befriended by my sister Michaela as a fellow student at the Victorian College of The Arts. His instrument being Oboe, he also harboured a passion for electronic composition and new age experimentation. He injected a greatly appreciated light heartedness into the room, which served as an arbitrator and inhibitor to domestic tensions. Andrew had no formal experience in painting, but his sensitivity was apparent, and the ensuing performances were memorable for their happiness and vigour. Andrew would then don his riding gear and take off into the night on his bicycle, as if the day’s painting were respite between legs of the Tour De France. One performance conducted at ‘The Hut Gallery’ in Ferntree Gully, saw a thin young man with dark mullet and pale complexion linger curiously for a considerable time. Baden Johnson was one of the first members of the audience to participate in a performance, and later became a member and devotee of our performance art group. Baden later commented that the experience had left a lasting impression, well beyond a handout eagerly taken to school to show his teachers.
With the new-year, colour returned to my own palette, and I embraced the medium of dry pastel, first introduced to me through the Jazz collaborations. Drawings of a more lyrical nature with titles suggestive of theatre and magic came to life. ‘Tiger Tiger Burning Bright’ with its plumes of brilliant red held in pause by a strong black presence of line was the first of a set of larger works. Philip later commented that he developed the symbol for diamond plain work based on observations of these drawings. ‘Wind shear’ with its visual rendering of dangerous wind currents, as if the breath of a higher being, and ‘Crystal Light’, a blue monument in motion hurtling through space with an intense inner burn ‘, were among these pastel drawings and I was ready for my first showing.
The pictures arrived, each with a unique personality capturing my mood for that time. Jan Martin often referred to pictures in this fashion. To her they were like people, requiring sensitive attention in order for their true character to be revealed. With encouragement and an expert eye, Jan helped us select the works for the ‘Mondo’ show, on an afternoon that seemed reminiscent of the day she selected the works for my father’s Castlemaine exhibition.
It was a low-key event, up for the day then packed away before nightfall. We struggled through ‘Prelude to Westernport’ a new score Philip had based on the large heroic canvases my father had executed as part of his ‘Westernport Garden’ series in the 1970’s. The composition required a crisp methodical elegance of line and gesture that was beyond our inexperienced unit, especially under scrutiny from a captive audience. Jan Martin also helped out by bringing some new clients to buy, one of whom was Biggibilla, a man who had apparently only recently discovered and embraced his Aboriginal heritage. Biggibilla, a large hirsute individual, purchased two of my pencil drawings for his children, the proceeds from which accounted for my first sable brush. A short time later he reciprocated the invitation, and we walked through an inner city mansion converted into a gallery (for this occasion), lined with his rather brash and expensive oils on linen. We lost contact shortly after and Jan turned her attention to representing indigenous artists from the North East Arnhem Land region, working in a more traditional manner.