Canberra’s Renaissance: An Evening of Resurrection & Revival

So, the nation’s capital is finally having a Renaissance. It’s been a long time coming, only some 400 years behind the rest of the world but we know its going to be bloody amazing. And since the last renaissance occurred long before any of us existed, it seems like a pretty awesome opportunity to see what all the fuss is about. We sat down with the creative director of Canberra’s Renaissance to find out what we should expect from what is sure to be a historical moment for Australia’s capital.

Head to Canberra on Friday 2nd March at the Hamlet to be part of the enlightenment. Details Here.

1. So what exactly is the event all about?

In keeping with the reference to the Renaissance period, the event is about a rebirth, through art, science, philosophy, and human connectedness. It is a rejuvenation and revitalisation of a space in Canberra that was bustling for a long time with artists and creatives, but is now quietly decaying, and soon to be demolished. The event is the accumulation of almost forty Canberra based artists coming together to charge the space with life, culture, vibrancy and passion. As well as being a great occasion to celebrate and promote our local artists, the event seeks to connect people, acting on the uniting element of art. Renaissance hopes to bring the community together and to connect people from all backgrounds.

On that note, Renaissance is particular aimed at exposing the reality of art. Art is universal, and inclusive, and commits no prejudices – People do that last bit, not art. The prejudices that do appear in the arts world, showing up at galleries, or on festival stages, come from society and are not a characteristic of art by any means. In curating the Renaissance lineup I sought to provide a lineup of artists (across all disciplines) that was equal and diverse, and showed the reality of art. The lineup is not saturated with white cis males; in fact, it’s far from it. The female/male ratio is even, and there is representation from a range of minority groups, including LGBTQIAP, that reflects the reality of who makes art.

PS: We’re all loving that Sydney Mardi Gras will be on in Sydney the weekend of Renaissance, lots of people promoting and celebrating equality in a variety of accepting locations sounds great!


2. And tell us about the artists playing/performing? Any favourites we should keep our eyes out for?

Gahh, I could go on about the Renaissance artists all day. Basically they are all Canberra-based, hugely individualistic, and their works pretty much all take my breath away.

Just to mention a few artists from the visual arts list, there is Sophie Dumaresqu, who does a lot of work with dyed human hair in nature, and whose art talks about entropy and black holes and human connection. She just got back from a few years dedicated to photography in Paris, and will be hacking into the Hamlet walls to exhibit an installation. There’s Musonga Mbogo, whose painting is so exciting. He’s currently working on projects for the upcoming Melbourne Fashion Festival VAMFF, and Canberra’s own Art Not Apart. His work is an exploration of his cultural heritage, own experience, and his perspective on the contemporary world. There’s Sophie Herring, whose current style is very cosmic goddess inspired, and she does scenes with nature and the cosmos and women celebrating the feminine and sexuality – I love her stuff a lot. Solomon Grainger is another, he does these cave drawing-inspired paintings that interpret illustrations of his youth, when he was a toddler, and explore a fantastical world of dragons and the child’s mind. His work also links to a very mature perspective on art and the theory of cave paintings as man’s first course of expression and how we can find a very strong connection with these prehistoric artworks even today. Sol and I both love a bit of dark old Caravaggio, so he’s playing with Caravaggio’s David and Goliath theme I do believe.

In terms of sound artists, the Ansah Brothers, who are the sibling duo of Citizen Kay and Genesis Owusu, will be headline Renaissance. I like how this gives the event a bit of a family vibe. Their combined style is effortlessly cool, and smooth, and deep, and kind of gets under your skin and makes you need to move. Pretty much all the sound artists are already mates, we have Genie Stuart, Ryan Fennis, and Joshua Amour who DJ together a bit, and two newer groups on the scene WeirdoGvng and Neko Pink. Kilroy are a groovy group who have a big following in Canberra. WeirdoGvng I would definitely shoot a listen if you like yourself a bit of that Travis Scott, Jayden Smith Syre type thing.

I think a little known fact about Canberra is that our poetry scene is actually fantastic. We have some great performance poets! Three of these, Tahi Atea Kentwell, Bela Farkas and Abhishek Gupta, will be up on the Renaissance stage with their emotional mix of Romantic, Beat, and Post-modern originals.


3. And for people outside of Canberra, what is the Hamlet?

Once the space used to be part of the car yards and tyre shops that constituted Lonsdale Street until its modernization began with cafes, restaurants, bakers and new apartments. The Hamlet today is a decaying, dusty old structure that is being knocked down at the end of March. It has a lot of history attached to it, especially in the ex-studio rooms that used to be occupied with Canberra artists. It’s right in the middle of Lonsdale Street in the city, and is a BYO space, so people have been going there for a chill out, and to get a feed from the Hamlet food vans, for the past four years now. It’ll be a shame to see it go, it’s a great space.


4. And what’s happening to the Hamlet?

It’s being knocked down and turned into apartments. Whether the demolition happens on the evening of the 2nd of March, or on the due date a month later by professionals, I couldn’t tell you.


5. What inspired you guys to put this event on?

At a fundamental level, I believe art is humanity’s answer to existence. Art is the manifestation of the individual interpreting their experience of reality, in conjunction with their emotions. Arguably, art is essential to life. It connects us, it inspires us, it relieves us, it gives us drive and passion, and it makes us feel not quite so scared and alone.

I didn’t know this until a couple of years ago. Although I’m very lucky to have travelled all my life and to have been to famous galleries and seen cultures, I had never had any interest in, or understanding of the importance of art until the beginning or 2016. I was in love with someone for the first time, and they took me to a visual art exhibition. I had no interest in art, and only really went because I wanted to impress them. In that exhibition, I was taken. It was by an Australian artist, Fiona Hall, and I remember being overwhelmed with emotion standing in front of artworks and letting them take me in and absorb me, not the other way around. At the end of it, I struggled to put into words how I felt, but I was also given this new energy, like a new understanding of life had been handed to me, passionate and electric. I mean, the real understanding didn’t happen straight away, that took time, but the artwork had provoked a new sense of reality and I was keen to learn. Basically after this experience I spent a lot more time around visual art. More time thinking about Art as a concept, and I connected with people and artists about art and their creations, and took up Art history, and actually engage with my parents during their discussions about Art over the dinner table. I look at my life a few years ago, and who I was, and they both seem to lack something now, but I didn’t know it then. I’m not trying to say art fulfils you, but it really does have the potential to, or at least help to shape individuals for the better. If you let art in, I sincerely believe it creates for humans a better life. And that’s what’s essentially inspired this event. It was that first moment I was truly struck by a piece of art, and overwhelmed, and enamoured, and awoken to a new feeling, and provoked enough to need to peruse that new feeling. I think that if even one person comes out of this event feeling like I did that day, awoken to a new understanding, whether that be from seeing a painting, or hearing a melody, or a poem, then that would be goal achieved.


IG: renaissance_cbr

FB event: Canberra Renaissance

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