9 February 2024

The road to Wee Jasper inspires Braidwood artist to embark on most creative of journeys

| Sally Hopman
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Man in glassesn in art studio

Artist Ray Monde in his Braidwood studio. His latest exhibition, The Road to Wee Jasper, is on show at the Tyger Gallery, Yass. Photo: Supplied.

For more than 20 years, Ray Monde worked in the advertising industry around the world. There were regular 12-hour days, creating thousands of ideas only to have most of them shot down in flames. Living a frenetic life in Sydney, too, didn’t help.

Ray reckons his career as an artist grew from that frustration. “I just wanted to do something creative for myself so I tore out all my ads in magazines and repurposed them into a collage.

“It was a catalyst for me, so I started off doing more of the work I wanted to.”

Today, Ray, who lives and works in Braidwood, is a leading paper-based artist and his latest show, The Road to Wee Jasper, has just opened at Tyger Gallery in Yass.

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“I started showing my work and then in 2012, I was a finalist in a Goulburn art award – I guess that’s when I started to put myself out there,” he said. “I started to think maybe my work was something people will like, so I started selling online and at art shows.”

Ray said it took him about 10 years before he could say, “without discomfort” that he was an artist. “Up until then I would just tell people I used to work in advertising,” he joked.

“I grew up on a dairy farm near Taree. Being an artist back then was not considered to be a proper job. Although I was lucky that my mum and dad, to their credit, let me be – I guess I was a weird kid. I loved plastering the walls of my bedroom with pictures from magazines.”

Working with paper has always been his preferred medium – from collage to painting, drawing and multimedia.

Painting of river with windmill and mountains in background

High Water, Like a Half-Remembered Dream, a collage and painted work, by Ray Monde, now on show in The Road to Wee Jasper, at Tyger Gallery, Yass. Photo: Supplied.

In 2007, Ray and his partner decided to make the break from Sydney and the “stupid” house prices there. Their destination was somewhere within a three-hour trip from the city – “when we saw this beautiful place on the river at Braidwood, we bought it.

“We moved here full-time in 2011 and I have to say it has changed a lot since then. Back then there was essentially a milk bar here. Now it has become a real foodie destination.”

But it has proven so much more for the artist who has always taken inspiration from his surroundings. Having the space to work in, “the big sky country with no light pollution”, is ideal.

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“I walk every morning and because although it is the same landscape, you notice how things look in different light.”

Inspiration from this natural world is behind Ray’s latest exhibition, The Road to Wee Jasper, which is now on show at the Tyger Gallery Yass. Techniques used in this exhibition include where the artist paints over images from magazines with a thin glaze of acrylic paint so the text and images can “ghost” through the work.

“Within the layered collage is my attempt to pin down an ephemeral joy of that place, moments that slip and defy time … this timeless land is where we can escape and reconnect.”

Aerial view of property

Artist Ray Monde finds great inspiration from his home and studio on the Shoalhaven River. Photo: Supplied.

The artist spent many years driving to and from Wee Jasper, about 60 km southwest of Yass, travelling its windy roads and revelling in its stunning natural beauty.

“My brother and his family lived there,” he said. “I used to go out there a lot. It’s the sort of place that when you enter it, it’s like going into a secret world. A place that can feel like not too many people have been there before you.

“We had such special moments there; the mountains are so steep that in winter, the sun would disappear at 3 pm and everything would be in shadow and the people there were like shadows on the landscape.”

After the Yass exhibition, Ray will take up the role as artist-in-residence at the Bundanon Trust in the Shoalhaven.

The Road to Wee Jasper is on at Tyger Gallery, Yass, until 18 February. Free exhibition. Open from 11 am to 2 pm on Thursdays and Fridays, Saturdays 1 am to 3 pm and 11 am to 3 pm on Sundays.

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