An exhibition of never before seen works of Helmut Newton beautifully vandalised by one of Sydney’s most celebrated born and bred street artist; RJ Williams. This will be RJ’s first solo exhibition, as well as the first and last chance to access these unique pieces.
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This series uses RJ’s grandmother as his muse (in the prime of her prolific modelling career), who was the face of the Hordern Group (ever heard of the Hordern pavilion?), the Myer Group, iconic Australian brands like Ryvita and Sleepmaker, along with many more. Marie Spies (née Roberts) was also (ironically) the face of Mark FoysDepartment store, a building that now houses the Downing Centre Courthousewhich has seen more than one graffiti artist through its doors.
Helmut Newton needs no introduction and his story is one for the ages.From spending time in an Australian internment camp in 1940 to the dizzying heights as one of the most sought after and imitated photographers on the planet. His untimely and accidental death in a car accident leaving the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood in 2004 punctuates Newton’s story asverging on the almost unbelievable.
RJ’s career has not been short of achievementseither, he started illustrating professionally at age 12, enjoyed a brief career in action sports during the fledgling and entrepreneurial early days of Australian snowboarding, followed by work within the advertising industry. The early death of his grandfather left him little choice but to abandon his career plans and take on his grandfather’s160-year-old funeral business. Several years later the urge to create drove RJ to host a giant block party at the funeral home, with live art and live music performed by then little-known artists Bliss N Eso.
The huge success of this event convinced RJ that the right path was to convert the old coffin factory into art studios.The old florist shop his family owned was converted into a hub for Sydney’s urban creative culture, which included a retail store, low brow gallery and a platform for many to express themselves.
Following a number of successes with this creative endeavour, RJ shot to worldwide notoriety when he discovered the symbol that he used (and had trademarked)to sign off all his works was being used by none other than Madonna!Upon sending an unanswered cease and desist letter to the Queen of Pop, RJ decided to take matters into his own hands. That very same week he travelled to Los Angeles to install his symbol illegally on the corner of Hollywood and Highland, thence Melrose Blvd.Ultimately, a giant 100 foot by 60 foot banner was installed alongside the world famousHollywood sign, something people had thought impossible since drastic security measures had been put in place in the late 1980’s. Madonna ceased to use the symbol and RJ earned himself a place amongst respected graffiti artists in the United States.This culminatedin him being invited to compete against celebrated graffiti Artist OG Abel under the watchful eye of SEEN and RISKwhom are largely considered the godfathers of graffiti on the east and west coasts respectively.
With all this activity in the creative world itissurprising this is RJ’s first ever solo exhibition.His motivation has always been to facilitate others, as such he has curated and co curated huge group shows since the early 2000’s, yet his motivation for finally going solo is twofold.Firstly, the Australian government is stripping back its tax incentives to buy the works of Australian artists from $100k per annum to just $1k as of EOFY 2019. His second and far deeper motivation is his love and respect for his grandmother. Unfortunately, she is suffering from Dementiaand he fears it will not be long before it will be too late to show her the massive impact she has had on his works. RJ and the Lyons Gallery will be donating a portion of funds from this show to Dementia Australia.