Interview with Luke ROBERTS
the ephemera interviews
In this series of interviews artists directly involved in ARIs and artist-run culture 1980- 2000 speak about the social context for their art making and provide insights into the ephemera they produced or collaborated on during this period. Artist ephemera includes artworks, photocopies, photographs, videos, films, audio, mail art, posters, exhibition invites, flyers, buttons and badges, exhibition catalogues, didactics, room sheets, artist publications, analogue to digital resources and artist files.
Australian Painters on the Nature of Creativity
Luke has exhibited publicly since 1975. His first major public exhibition Pope Alice presents Luke Roberts was in 1980. He exhibited at Bellas Gallery and then BellasMilani Gallery from 1987-2005 Philip Bacon Gallery 2006 and is currently represented by Milani Gallery, Brisbane and John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne.
Luke studied drawing at the Julian Ashton School in Sydney and Fine Art at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Brisbane. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Queensland University of Technology in 2001.
From 1984-1987 he lived and worked in Europe.
He has received various public art commissions from the Queensland State Government and the Brisbane City Council.
Luke was a featured actor in Tracey Moffatts film Bedevil. The character drew on his performance work investigating the life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
He is also both an adviser to, and patronized by Her Divine Holiness Pope Alice and fosters Her mission to Planet Earth as Camerlingo, tour manager, Master of Wardrobe, and Senior Curator of the Papal Wunderkammer. He has pioneered various embassies and consulates for her Divine Holiness around the globe including New York, Tokyo, Rome and Amsterdam. http://www.popealice.com
Luke was a regular contributer to Heyoka Magazine http://www.heyokamagazine.com
Luke hi and thanks, why does a public archive mapping artist testimonies and artist histories about the ephemeral nature of the vibrant Queensland 1980-1990 artist-run scene matter to you?
I believe it’s important these untold stories are put on the public record…
Because of the political atmosphere and the lack of opportunities for artists I left Queensland in early 1984 to live in Europe. Whilst living in Queensland as an artist up until 1984 I was working in various media including painting, photography, performance, wearable art and film and was focused on various subjects in my professional practice including sexuality, spirituality, and kitsch.
From my perspective E.M.U. (1979-1981) heralded the beginning of a series of ARIs.
Before leaving Brisbane I was aware that O’Flate/One Flat had been established. Up until that time there was a great sense of isolation for artists in the city. ARIs allowed artists a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, a sense of the future, provided hope and possibilities and camaraderie.
We independently established a place to exhibit our work, to network and to meet other contemporary artists. This was invaluable at the time as there were no venues, institutions or galleries that would even consider exhibiting or promoting local contemporary art.
I was fortunate to have an exhibition at the Institute of Modern Art in 1982 during an intervening period when the Institute was administered by two Queenslanders, Barbara Campbell and Ted Riggs.
It is disconcerting, disappointing and indicative of the cultural amnesia that artists endure here in Queensland and that documentation and ephemera from this era has not been collected and published.
I understand that this Artist-run remix project is an invaluable way to change this sad state of affairs and acknowledge the contribution that was made during this unique era.
It is designed as an online project and will make these interviews and archives available to a wider audience online for a much longer period than any exhibition can even attempt to provide. From my point of view this is a fantastic way to record and remember this history.
Today, despite the odds, I still work as an artist.
I consider the time working with other artists at E.M.U. in 1979 to 1981 as an extraordinarily vital time long gone and in many ways naïve and innocent.
We were oblivious to what Brisbane was to develop into and unaware that the tidal wave of time would obliterate much of its traces.
E.M.U. provided me with an invaluable creative experience that continues to serve me well in my professional work and in my daily life.
During the short period of time that E.M.U. operated as a space I was able to achieve a number of significant milestones in my career.
In 1980 my exhibition ‘Pope Alice presents Luke Roberts’ opened at Spring Hill Art Gallery. It was accompanied by three performance works; one in King George Square and three at the gallery (opening night plus two media events).
The media events were the Hayden Sargent Report (Channel 10) and a press conference, resulting in evening news coverage on at least two channels. This kind of local coverage was not only unique in my career, but most artists could only dream of today. In light of our activity and visibility I met others that were to have an impact on my life.
Nigel Rice invited me to take a lead role in his all-male version of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ which was presented at the Brisbane Community Arts Centre in Edward Street, Brisbane.
I met Scott Redford at E.M.U and later established the QLD ARI AGLASSOFWATER with him in 1989. I also met Ted Riggs, who curated a show of my work at the IMA in 1982 and Ted was an important artist for me in many ways..