Image: A packed house at Raw Brisbane, 19 July, 2013. Credit: Dan Dixon.

When I ask artists at Raw Brisbane to describe the atmosphere of the night, several use the word ‘buzzing’. On July 19 it’s Friday night in Fortitude Valley, this is Brisbane’s first Raw showcase event and the night’s theme is ‘elevation’.

It’s Bonnie Hislop’s (https://www.facebook.com/BonnieHislopArtist) first exhibition in Brisbane and she’s spending a lot of time discussing her detailed surrealist sketches with the interested. According to Bonnie, Raw found her on Instagram and invited her to showcase. In the five months leading up to the night Bonnie worked on a series that matched the theme.

“Art is such a solitary experience and to have been so immersed in it for so long and then to be able to share it with people is really unique and is great,” says Bonnie.

Doors open at 7.30pm and by 8 The Arena (the name Mystique adopts when trying to be classy, though it still says Mystique in giant letters outside and the floor is really sticky so the effort is largely in vain) is packed with artists and guests.

The downstairs area is punctuated by a catwalk protruding from the main stage, though people tend to gather around the bar at the back of the room. During the night, the host leads featured artists down this catwalk, introducing them one by one, and offering a fact or two about their life or work. Artists’ stalls skirt the edges, showing off wares; millinery, jewellery, paper crafts and paintings.

Upstairs it’s hard to move without bumping into more art. A room is set up with a maze of makeshift walls displaying paintings, photography, customised skateboard decks, designed notepads and more. Artists, some awkward, some confident, stand beside their compositions answering questions and every now and then making a sale. Most of the artists are young and visibly eager about the public checking out their work.

Amy Ossola’s (http://www.rawartists.org/amyossola) paintings feature muted, impressionistic watercolours. Having only recently moved to Brisbane, she believes Raw offers an enormous opportunity.

“As far as I know there aren’t huge amounts of these kinds of opportunities for ground level networking of artists. This is one of a kind. It’s so exciting, it’s a phenomenal opportunity to have people just see your artwork, meet other artists and become more inspired,” she says.

Tegan Watts (https://www.facebook.com/Teagan.Watts.artist), a full-time high school teacher, is showing portraits that play with human anatomy, foregrounding bones, veins and internal organs like a human Pompidou. For Tegan, Raw is a “chance to get your work out there, get some feedback and broaden your market.”

The night is also about music, film and dance. The host, Bliss Nixon, introduces the first programmed item of the evening, the short film Backpackers. Though Bliss encourages the audience to respect the film and keep the noise down, the crowd continues to chat. The talking during the film isn’t so much obnoxious as irrepressible, but it does make it difficult to work out what’s happening on screen (something about backpackers in love, unsure, then in love again). The film does, however, receive riotous applause as the credits roll. This bubbly, restless, supportive reception typifies the night’s atmosphere.

The evening continues with music and dancing and people getting progressively drunker and buying more art, which can only be good for the artists. Brisbane’s first Raw showcase is both well attended and sort of glamorous and treats the artists with a tremendous amount of respect. Perhaps it even pushes Brisbane a little closer to being what it seems always to yearn to be: a culturally competitive city, perhaps comparable to Sydney or even Melbourne.

With a mission to foster up and coming independent artists of all sorts, Raw was developed ten years ago in Los Angeles and the group now holds events in 80 cities around the world. Given the success of Brisbane’s first event, it’s no surprise that Raw is coming back. September’s theme is ‘translations’ (http://www.rawartists.org/brisbane). If you like engaging with local artists and being in a place where emerging art is revered, go along.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.

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