In Space No-one Can Hear You Collect Rocks

Here’s an interview LOL conducted with Rohan Wealleans to coincide with his exhibition In Space No-one Can Hear You Collect Rocks at Mail Box Art Space in Melbourne.  Tomorrow (Saturday) is the last day of the show, so if you’re in town there’s still time to check it out….

Poster for the 1977 film film Demon Seed
Demon Seed film poster

LOL  What’s your favourite sci-fi film and why?
RW     It is the 1977 film Demon Seed, about a scientist who creates an organic super computer with artificial intelligence called Proteus. The computer is quite tricky and becomes obsessed with humans; particularly the scientist’s wife. I love films with scientists asking big questions and doing ambitious projects that ultimately get out of control. I love how creepy the machine is and how he manages to figure out a way to procreate with the object of his fascination, despite having no real physical presence. Quite a feat.  Perhaps I feel as if I can relate to all the players, the machine, the scientist and the woman. Maybe not the woman. Just the other two.

One of the artist's found images of alien girls
Found image collected by Wealleans

You have a Facebook album devoted entirely to found images of ‘alien girls’.  What is it that you like about them?
Alien girls are a possibility and dealing with them gives you a lot of freedom because you can never be right or wrong. I like the idea of femininity and how it can be translated into different species that may have different systems of sex. Being at least half human male it is hard to get away from human ideas about femininity because that is all that is known. I don’t know what is alluring about a female lizard. Unless you maybe chuck some lipstick and eye lashes on it. This may be a little simplistic but when you’re dealing with what attracts human males it may not be. Pictures of alien woman I have found on the internet are mostly based on human ideals of femininity, which I can relate to. Imagine how much you could learn from an alien woman that looked like a sexy green human woman? And by some miracle of biology and alien culture you possessed all the attributes she most desired. Everybody wins! That would be very exciting.

Rohan Wealleans, Freyja, 2011
Rohan Wealleans, Freyja, 2011

The thing I love about your own saucy alien photographs like Freyja (2011) is that they seem like a window into your mind, is that a fair comment?
Overall I am creating scenes that I would like to walk in on one day. A big part of the work is the actual painting on real human women. If paint is like flesh this act is like wet flesh on dry flesh being rubbed against each other as imaginatively as possible. Maybe how I managed to put myself in the position of doing this speaks more of how my mind moves. Reacting more to what is on the outside than what is on the inside. So I’m not sure if it is a fair comment but on the other hand maybe there are colourful alien vaginas floating around inside me clawing to get out.

Planet Earth Geology Department, installation view, 2005
Rohan Wealleans, Planet Earth Geology Department, installation view, 2005

Tell me about your ongoing project, Planet Earth Geology Department, established in 2005.
Planet Earth Geology Department is my scientific agency with military ties that travels around the universe collecting rocks from different planets. This came about from a need to somehow use all the rocks I produce as waste from other series of works. It is a way to categorize what I have produced and also build another world around what looks like beautiful fake geological samples. What is interesting about this is that it deals with tribal ideas of not wasting anything and putting it into a scientific framework which seems like the opposite to me. It is twisting using into looking. My work usually takes a rock I have made and turns that into a culture, more often than not a more tribal culture and the systems used in that type of production.

Spider Woman and the Kang Diamond, installation view, Ivan Anthony Gallery, Auckland, 2014
Rohan Wealleans, Spider Woman and the Kang Diamond, installation view, Ivan Anthony Gallery, Auckland, 2014

You’ve done a couple of suites of alien babe photos now, including huge, room sized installations featuring images of female genitals, encrusted with your aforementioned rocky remnants. Where is the project heading next?
I have recently been making the photographs into lenticular prints giving them a ghostly technological feel. I would like to experiment with this more. I have also wanted for a long time to do a triple stack of women which I will try to arrange soon. I would also like to make a photo where I re-enact a painting called Blade Healers I did in 2008 with live, painted women, five or six of them. I really just want to fit more and more into these photos.

In Space No-one Can Hear You Collect Rocks

Looking Forward – Rohan Wealleans


23rd October – 29th November 2014
Opening Night: Thursday 23rd October 6-8pm

Rohan Wealleans, 'Palaver of Peril', 2012, colour photograph, 143 x 117 cm
Rohan Wealleans, Palaver of Peril, 2012, colour photograph, 143 x 117 cm

New Zealand artist Rohan Wealleans creates paintings and sculptures comprised of multitudinous layers of house paint that are then incised to reveal the multi-coloured excavations beneath.  The resulting paint chips generated by this process often become art objects in their own right.  For Mailbox, they are presented as specimen-like curiosities, and as body adornments in photographs featuring Wealleans-styled naked alien babes.  Part ‘geologist’, part voyeur, Wealleans always inhabits multiple guises.

Curated by Serena Bentley.

Rohan Wealleans is represented by Ivan Anthony Gallery, Auckland; Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.

MAILBOX is an Artist Run Initiative 141-143 Flinders Lane Melbourne, VIC 3000 AUSTRALIA

Looking Forward – Rohan Wealleans