Interview: Rone at Pow Wow Hawaii

The Melbourne-based artist on making collaborative murals in Honolulu's Kaka'ako district

by Vivianne Lapointe


Last month we traveled to Honolulu to join the bursting community of artists that migrates there every February as part of Pow Wow Hawaii. The exciting event founded by Jasper Wong has turned into a month-long art festival with so much happening that it could hardly be taken in during the short week we intended to stay there.

The city’s Kaka’ako commercial district has been transformed from an industrial area into Hawaii’s latest creative hub, thanks, in part to Melbourne-based artist Rone, who brought his signature “girls” to Honolulu. We caught up with him to talk about his experience at this year’s event.


What were the highlights of your experience at Pow Wow this year?

Rainbows, drinks in coconuts and poke.

Describe the concept of your wall with Wonderlust. Had you collaborated with him before?

Wonderlust and I have painted several times before. It was almost systematic once we got going. We used the name of the local area, Kaka’ako, hoping it would become somewhat of a landmark for the community.


Tell us about the other wall you created.

After finishing the giant Kaka’ako wall with Wonder I had a bit of free time to look at doing something else. Kamea Hadar is one of the organizers of Pow Wow and a super talented oil painter. He wanted to tackle this huge wall but wasn’t quite sure how to go about it, so we turned it into a total collaboration. I learned how he paints with color and he learned how I paint on a huge scale. Almost immediately we were mimicking each other’s techniques, so it’s impossible to say who did what on this wall. That wall was the biggest creative challenge for me. To make something that represented both of us but to still have our own styles come through.


Can you talk about the woman you are always painting?

One of my first stencil images, Susan, I used to paste up under one of Melbourne’s busiest bridges. I would quite often paint the stencil crying. Years later, a woman contacted me after she found my profile in a book. As it turned out, she was a model in the ’70s and I had found her image in a vintage magazine. For years she had related my images with her life and as the paste ups went up, there were uncanny parallels with her life. It was great to know the real story of this woman as people had asked me about her so often. I now have all my images professionally photographed but I try to use women with the same intensity and emotion as some of my earliest works.

How was it living with all these amazing artists under one roof for a few weeks?

I was bed hopping every night. I spent a few on the sofa and other nights I had to share a bed, so it was pretty intimate. It was like camping in a mansion. As artists it was great to bounce ideas off new creative people. Some really interesting match-ups were made.


What were your favorite walls created this year?

The Madsteez and Roid wall was great along with anything Nychos touched.

Images courtesy of Laura Austin and Brandon Shigeta