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ABOUT THIS EXHIBITION

Inspired by the folk lore tales of Ned Kelly, Johnny Romeo's exhibition You'll Never Take Me Alive is an investigation into Kelly's presence in Australia's historical fabric and his influence on our national pop culture. Romeo is fascinated by the presence of Kelly as, IN Romeo's words, "a revered Australian icon" but the seeming truth of the matter Kelly "is nothing more than a cold blooded killer". This fascination, coupled with a deep knowledge of contemporary film, gave birth to the series in this body of work - both conceptually and aesthetically.




In creating his Ned Kelly, Romeo draws upon the perceptions of the character used in contemporary films and other visual art mediums. Much like the characters in a Quinton Tarentino film, the depiction of Kelly is raw and graphic. The use of symbols - such as guns and damsels in distress - pushes the boundaries of folklore portrayal. Romeo's pieces can be read as a film's storyboard layout. Each of the images depict a scene with the focus driven by the characters within a scene in general, not necessarily specific historic events - "I wanted the works to loosely follow and be inspired by the main sequence of the Kelly story".


This storyboard, filmic approach is further explored through the works' comic aesthetics. The use of speech bubbles and word insertions emphasizes the immediacy of the works. They are depictions of moments in Australian pop culture. This comic style highlights the mass consumption of cultural heritage and stories in media - like film, comics as well as the visual arts. The tales of Ned Kelly have been much explored in Australia's short history but in this exhibition, Johnny Romeo uncovers his view of Kelly while simultaneously discussing the notion of story telling in our contemporary society.

Owen Craven - arts writer, Deputy Editor Artist Profile 2010

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