IF YOU happen to be at Orange Health Service over the next few weeks be sure to head to the east entrance to see the Reg Mobassa drawing.
This artwork is on long-term loan to the Orange Regional Gallery from the Kedumba Collection of contemporary Australian drawings and is currently on display at the Health Service as part of the arts and health strategy.
Many people who see the drawing say it looks a lot like a Mambo design. That’s because Chris O′Doherty, aka Reg Mombassa, is a key artist of Mambo designs and his iconic style is easily recognisable.
To become such an integral part of Australian culture is a testament to this unique artist’s vision, sustained over three decades. One of the most pleasing aspects of Mobassa’s work is the way he reduces his subjects to a comic level.
There is a black outline around everything – a common feature in comics whereby different areas are divided with black and filled with colours. There’s also a strong irregular border around the image which you also see in many comic strips. So he’s using the language of pop culture but in an idiosyncratic way.
Mombassa makes drawing look easy and fun to do and this is also part of what makes him so popular. The materials he uses are the sort you can pick up from the local newsagent. Some colouring pencils or pastels, glue and glitter are all you’d need.
While many of his subjects are easily recognisable, he often mixes up the things we know so well. This gives his drawings an “out there” quality that makes them interesting and unforgettable.
Here we have a “Kengarewe”. In case you didn’t know, it’s a mixture between a kangaroo, sheep and what looks like a kiwi. Is it a self portrait? Is it someone who’s undecided what team to support in a tri-nations series? Why is it holding a ball? Whatever it is, it’s a hybrid and it’s funny, funky and unnerving at the same time.
If we were actually wandering in a mind-walk through the world of Reg Mombassa it would be safe to say that anything could happen at any time. There’s a surreal quality to his work which is present when he draws simple landscapes, forests, or suburban houses on a street corners.
Of course it’s also present when he depicts giant robot dogs destroying the opera house with their laser eyes or houses running away from bushfires. In Mombassa’s world anything is as possible as anything else.
The opportunity to see this and many other original works of Australian art at Orange Health Service is part of the art and health strategy’s mission to contribute to a sense of wellbeing by providing colour, interest and cultural enrichment for staff, patients and the general public.