When I say I’m NEW what I really mean is that recently I was lucky enough to have exhibited in NEW14 at ACCA, curated by Kyla McFarlane.
Being in NEW was kind of a dream come true. It’s such an exciting thing to be a part of but it’s also a little bit scary because you don’t wanna stuff it up, and so when I was first invited to be in NEW I was shocked, as seen here in this photo of me reading a book by Robert Hughes.
Ha, anyway hopefully you got to see NEW14 but just incase you missed it the work I exhibited consisted of sculptures and video, however the main focus was a large selection of drawings that I made on the train. The drawings were all made while playing a game I came up with as a way to pass the time while I travel back and forth between my house and studio.
The rules of the game are pretty simple; if the person I’m drawing gets off the train, if they notice me, or if someone stands in front of them, then that’s where the drawing ends and I’m not allowed to make another mark on the paper. After that I show the person the drawing and if they like it I give them a copy.
Funny, smirky man. When I showed him the drawing he laughed and told me “That’s great, I wish I could do that! The only thing I know how to draw is money out the bank”.
Woman with a bandage on one foot and a croc on the other.
At this point I guess you’re probably wondering “Do people ever get mad when you draw them?” and fortunately the answer has been no. I’ve only ever had positive experiences. I put a lot of thought into deciding whether or not to draw someone, and so basically I wouldn’t draw anyone who looks angry, upset or self conscious, and I’d only draw a person if it was a crowded carriage where people feel safe. Also I wouldn’t draw an underage person or anything like that.
On top of that I’m always clean-shaven and wearing a t-shirt, just to kind of emphasize how skinny and non-threatening I am. I also try to resist wearing lots of rings on my fingers, unlike the man in this drawing.
Grown men who wear two or more rings are almost always a bit scary.
In NEW14 I exhibited 99 of the train drawings, which at the time of installation was exactly one fifth of the 495 that I’d done. The works were hung on a wall that was both the length of a train carriage as well as painted the same colour as the inside of one. The work was also lit using the same fluorescent tubes that light up train carriages.
The above photo is by photographer Andrew Curtis. Having good documentation like that is one of the cool things about exhibiting at ACCA.
Another really cool thing about showing the work in ACCA is that I was able share the experience with the actual people in the drawings, (thanks to the fact that whenever I’ve shown a passenger a drawing and they’ve liked it I’ve sent them a copy, which meant that I had their email address’ and was able to write them an invitation to the NEW14 opening). I don’t care if they came for the art or if they came for the free champagne and canapés, the fact they were there was pretty awesome.
For instance here’s a video of a man that I drew,
and here he is being the life of the party, in front of his portrait at the opening night.
I’m so grateful for being in NEW14, without it I don’t know how this body of work could’ve ever been so properly resolved.
NEW14 finished on May the 18th, but May the 18th wasn’t just the last day of the show, it was also my birthday, I turned 26. A while ago it occurred to me that 25 is the absolute oldest you can be to draw people on the train without it being really weird, and so I decided that on the day the exhibition finished I would stop train drawing as well.
I’ll miss train drawing, and I wanted to give the project the proper closure it deserved, so I also decided that on the last day before turning 26 I would ride the train all day, drawing passengers one last time and hitting every train line. There was even an article about it on page two in the MX, (the free public transport newspaper).
It was the strangest thing sitting in a crowded carriage of people who seemed to all be looking at the same awkward photo of me.
Here’s a guy I drew on the train who’s reading an article about how I draw people on the train.
So yeah, on May 17 I got up early and ate a big bowl of Nutrigrain. (NutriGrain, get it, as in NEW-trigrain. Good one Kenny.)
(Sculpture of a bowl of NEW-trigrain, on a table with “everything you need to do train drawing”; A ticket, a marker, a drawing pad, a phone. All objects are acrylic on kiln fired ceramic.)
Having had my new-tritional breakfast I felt ready, this is what I’d been training for.
My day began on the 4.20am train from Belgrave. Here’s a drawing of a guy who was on the carriage with me, he was drinking green tea from a thermos. My Dad drinks green tea so I’d know that smell anywhere.
Not long after that I was on the 5.29am rail replacement bus from Ringwood to Burnley. (The photo’s really shaky because it was a really shaky bus.)
On the 6.30am train to Werribee I did a drawing of this athletic guy, I’m sure by day he was a very fast runner but at this hour he was very fast asleep, despite the noisy drunk girls on the carriage who were debating over which one of them had gone the most hours since having a cigarette.
As the train was pulling in to Newport Station I did this drawing of a cat.
Here’s a girl named Sue listening to Johnny Cash on the 8.30am Werribee train.
I gave her the drawing and because she was into it I asked somebody else on the train if they wouldn’t mind taking a quick photo, ha, and so here we are, both of us looking very cool I think you’ll agree.
Here’s a drawing of a woman at Altona station. I decided not to show her the drawing because I drew her a bit chubby. (The texta adds ten pounds.)
Here’s a guy sleeping on the 10.10am Williamstown train. I had to draw quick because we were pulling into Williamstown and so he was gonna wake up any second.
When he did wake up he was friendly and I gave him the drawing. I asked someone to take our photo and as they were doing it they farted really loudly, I think I thought it was funnier than he did.
Throughout the day I charged my phone using any power point I could find, most train stations have one somewhere if you look hard enough. Sometimes you might have to unplug a hand dryer, but that’s only when urine a really sticky situation.
Footscray Station didn’t have any power points at all so I got a little derailed and charged my phone at Bread Kingdom across the street. Seeing as I was using their power I figured I should buy something, so I got these sultana sweet buns.
Getting back on track, I took a free V-Line train to Southern Cross, here’s a drawing of a woman who’s reading Schapelle Corby’s memoir. Her hair was almost as frizzy as mine.
I gave her the drawing, ha, and even though she was very nice I’m not convinced she really wanted it.
But the day wasn’t just about becoming BFF’s with that lady, I also took a moment to soak up some of Melbourne’s world famous public art.
And would you believe it I was even privileged enough to catch a glimpse of the train’s artist in residence, hard at work right in front of me.
Not long after that I learnt that this is how they roll on the Upfield line.
As I circled around the city loop de loop my eyelids were starting to get heavy, but I wasn’t the only one. This guy on the Cranbourne line had the right idea, the way he slept with his head inside his jacket made him look a bit like a turtle.
I gave the guy my drawing. He seemed to really like it and was so lovely and cool and good looking that sitting next to him made me feel even more scruffy and dorky than usual.
You don’t know you’re bootiful.
Here’s a drawing I did of a ripped train seat. I left the drawing there on the seat for the next passenger to look at, or for the cleaners to throw in the bin, whoever found it first.
After that I drew a woman in a pink jacket, as I did the drawing the guy and girl sitting opposite us discussed the best way that the guy should propose to his ‘gf’. “It doesn’t need to be anything too memorable because no matter what, she’s gonna remember it anyway.”
When I gave her the drawing she told me her Dad draws people too, at parties, “except maybe not quite as cartoony”.
Back on the Sandringham line I drew this cartoon of a cyclist, I wheely wanted to give it to him but sadly he put his pedal to the metal and got off the train too quickly.
On a side note someone on my Instagram messaged me in response to that photo and said “Haha, that’s my dad!” So it looks like the Sandringham cyclist will receive the drawing after all.
Continuing on with the cycle of life, here’s a drawing of an old Happy Meal in front of some old unhappy guys.
And finally to McWrap it all up I drew this man drinking coffee on the 11.10pm Burnley train. I think I might’ve drawn him looking a bit too old and sad so I really wasn’t sure whether to show it to him.
Eventually I talked myself into giving him the drawing and I’m so glad I did, you should’ve heard how loudly he kept laughing! He was so great, he kept saying “I can literally see myself in this drawing!” His name’s Bill, he was down from Canberra, he said he’s been up since five and here we are hanging out like old mates.
And so yeah, what a ride, it was now my birthday and I was homeward bound on the Belgrave rail replacement bus. I’d done what I’d set out to do, and even though the bus was stopping all stations I was express-ing happiness.
But ok, enough about me. It’s a few weeks later, I’m old news now and there’s a NEW exhibition on at ACCA by the great Douglas Gordon, (Douglas Gordon the Turner Prize winning artist that is, not the author of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy like I first thought, that’s Douglas Adams).
So yeah, if you haven’t already seen it then head down to ACCA and see Douglas Gordon’s The Only Way Out Is The Only Way In, on now until August 3. One of my favourite works in the show features Robert De Nero delivering his iconic line “Are you talking to me?” from the 1976 film Taxi Driver. Sometimes it can be hard to find art that really speaks to you, but it’s even harder to find art that asks you if you’re speaking to it.
Ha, anyway, unlike De Niro I actually am talking to you, and I wanna say a big thanks to you for reading this all the way to the end, I really appreciate it, (and if you’re interested you can find more from me on my blog and website).
I also wanna say a huge thanks to Kyla McFarlane, Jane Rhodes and the incredible people at ACCA, as well as all of the amazing people I’ve met on the train.
And so I think that’s that, NEW14’s over and from now on you won’t find me in the NEW section of the video shop anymore, I’ll be hanging out with the weekly’s.
Or I don’t know, maybe I’ll just be in the section of the video shop that has the free posters, kicking back with De Niro and his acca-demy award winning buddies.
Oh and speaking of posters, if you happen to call past Richmond station on your way to the Douglas Gordan exhibition be sure to keep an eye out for the one remaining poster from NEW14.
As you can see I’ve hired a policeman to guard it for me, I figure the poster’s like my Picture Of Dorian Gray and so as long as it’s still there then I can’t get old. I’m pretty sure that’s how it works. That all ended well for Dorian, yeah?
Ha, anyway I’m not sure how I’ll pass the time on the train now that I won’t be drawing the passengers, I guess I’ll just have to come up with something NEW.