This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Extraordinary Routines · Reko Rennie

Extraordinary Routines

Today, our monthly contributor Madeleine Dore of Extraordinary Routines gives us an insight into the day-to-day of Melbourne artist Reko Rennie, who will be exhibiting work at the Venice Biennale next month.

Reko’s long days in the studio are broken up with physical activity, and surprisingly meditative rides on his motorbike. Though an extremely dedicated creative, he prioritises family time above all else, and rewards himself with a nice meal in the company of loved ones.

21st April, 2017

Reko will showcase a video work at next month’s Venice Biennale. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

His vivid art has served as a commentary about how Aboriginal people today have a voice and power to talk about broader issues through art. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The former journalist keeps to a productive Monday-to-Friday work schedule when he can. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Contemporary artist Reko Rennie in his Melbourne studio. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Reko tries to stay on task, recognising that stopping to attend to things that pop-up straight away can be often inefficient. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

‘I enjoy being busy and prefer to be flat out… I have to teach myself to relax a bit more,’ mentions Reko. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The artist recently completed a poignant project, a colossal mural at the Lyon Housemuseum, entitled ‘Visible Invisible’. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Inside the artist’s Northcote studio. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Reko will occasionally head out for lunch – we discovered he’s also a fan of our local Japanese place, Aka Siro! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

In-between projects, the dedicated artist occasionally gets some downtime. ‘I’ll get back into a regular sleeping pattern, head down the coast, have more time out in nature, walk my dogs (probably not this one), things like that,’ Reko explains. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The artist works industriously and prioritises catch-up time and dinner with his daughter and partner, as well as the occasional Nordic thriller! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Detail of Reko’s Melbourne studio. – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Reko’s antidote to feeling stressed out: a ride on his motorbike! He notes the added advantage of being uncontactable too. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

‘There’s the saying that we are often our worst critics. For creatives, it’s really true, but it can also be good because it’s part of the process of evaluating your work. It helps you to continue to create and conceive ideas.’

Reko Rennie has an appetite for being busy. From the completion of the colossal Visible Invisible mural for the Lyon Housemuseum expansion earlier this year, to putting the finishing touches on his latest video work for Venice Biennale, at times his art practice keeps him in the studio for 14 to 16 hours each day.

‘I enjoy being busy and prefer to be flat out – it’s almost harder to switch off, because I feel bored if I’m not busy. I have to teach myself to relax a bit more,’ says Reko. This is not an uncommon approach for many working in the arts, where there is no guaranteed reward for your work, he explains, ‘other than the satisfaction of creating new work.’

Working as a journalist for the Koori Mail, ABC, SBS and The Age, before making the leap to full-time artist, the structure of a working week has stuck with Reko. ‘It’s quite important for me to have a bit of a routine,’ he says. ‘I’ve kept the habit working five-days-a-week to get the work done.’

Having a background in journalism has been of great benefit to Reko’s art practice. Through his work, Reko investigates his own lived experience as an urban Aboriginal man. 

His recent works often incorporate diamond symbols emblematic of his connection to the Kamilaroi/Gamilaroi people. As seen in Visible Invisible, the work juxtaposes these vividly coloured symbols with camouflage, referencing the ways in which Aboriginal people have had to hide, ‘blend in’ and conceal their identity. ‘In the past, it was a real struggle for Aboriginal people to be vocal and talk about issues, and people were victimised for it,’ he explains. ‘Now we can have all this power through art, and have a voice; that’s important not just for this generation, but for all the others that have fought before us.’

Despite long days at the studio and dedication to his work, Reko priorities his family, ensuring he is always home for dinner and a catch up, and has time to take his daughter Mila to school and watch soccer games. ‘I am investing so much time in art and creating – that’s my job, but I also don’t want it to overtake the time I am around as a father and a partner,’ says Reko, who enjoys getting back into a regular sleeping pattern, heading down the coast, and having time out in nature between projects.

While at times striking the balance can be overwhelming, Reko’s fervour stems from a deep passion and appreciation for being able to do what he loves full-time, and have the opportunity to share it with people. ‘When it’s something you really believe in, then it doesn’t feel like you’re being overloaded,’ he says.

DAILY ROUTINE


Morning

On the majority of days, I get up early in the morning, around six, and drop my daughter off at school, go have a coffee, and then I’m pretty much off to the studio by eight or nine. 

There are a few days a week where another friend takes our daughter to school with theirs, and on those days I can enjoy a more leisurely breakfast or a cup of tea at home with the girls.

For me, it really works having my studio away from my home environment, because I can focus on my work that way. I also enjoy the commute. It gives me time to think about things, watch the surrounds, and figure out what I’m doing in the next stages of a project.

Mid-morning

Often when I come into the studio, I start painting – there will be days I’ll spend all day at the studio creating work. Or I might do administration – figuring out timelines and deadlines, different things like that. Or I could just spend time being in the environment thinking about concepts and ideas.

Other times I might be doing an installation off-site, or a community-based project. It really depends on the time of year and the nature of the project.

I have some cardio stuff in the studio and a little regime so I’ll often do a workout during the day. It’s all about minimising having to go to different places and maximising the time in the studio.

Midday

I’m pretty conscious of what I’m eating because of the amount of hours I’m working – you’ve got to fuel your body. When it’s a bit colder, I will often make something in the studio so it doesn’t break up the rhythm if I’m busy painting. Other times I like to go out – I’ll get Japanese food in Collingwood or maybe go to Mario’s on Brunswick Street.

When I’m feeling a bit stressed out, I’ll jump on my motorbike at lunchtime and go for a ride. It’s great because you don’t have anyone contacting you on the phone – sometimes it becomes habitual to respond to things right away, and that can take a lot of time out of your day, especially when you are trying to paint.

Afternoon

In the afternoon the work is usually the same. At the moment I’m working on a bunch of paintings for a show and I’ve just finished spending time with editors on the latest video work going to Venice Biennale.

Sometimes if there is a show, I’ll be working 14 to 16 hour days. Maybe it’s something I got from my family – I’ve always watched people work really long hours to enjoy some rewards now and then, even if it’s very small things. I think it is a good thing to do for your practice, definitely.

Late afternoon 


My studio is right across from the Yarra River, and the Kew Boathouse is down the road, so sometimes it might be nice to have a little break and go for a walk through nature for half-an-hour.

At times when there is a big workload, it does get overwhelming and like many artists, you can get worn out, or anxious about upcoming shows, or get a sense of self-doubt about your work. But these are all natural things that occur for a majority of artists. You work through it by making work, being physical, and talking to people about it.

Evening

Even when everything is really busy, it’s important to have a meal with my daughter and partner and have that structured family time. It really matters to me.

We might cook or go out and have a nice meal with family and friends – I love to have nice food and a good time, it’s important to reward yourself every now and then. 

I’m conscious about spending time with my daughter and having that time together to chat about things. I’ve learnt that other things and people can wait – even if it’s really urgent, there is always a time.

Late evening

After a meal I might go back to the studio and keep working. I get a lot of my great work done after midnight, that’s for sure!

On the days I’ve finished at the studio earlier, after dinner we will hang out – if my partner isn’t studying we’ll watch some Nordic thriller or a film.

I’ll often stay up late because I can’t go to sleep early – I’ll be thinking about a lot of projects and writing down ideas. Then I switch off completely about 10:30 or 11pm and maybe watch a film or documentary before going to bed around midnight.

Reko’s latest video work, entitled OA_RR, will be shown at the 57th Venice Biennale opening next month, with Black Arts Projects. 

This story was written as part of our monthly collaboration with Madeleine Dore of Extraordinary Routines

View Comments

Similar Stories

Studio Visit

Kuku Yalanji Artist Tiarna Herczeg Creates Colourful Maps Of Country

The emerging artist shares how they found their creative voice and intuitive painting style.
Christina Karras

Creative People

Landscape Studio Ayus Botanical On Creating Calming + Enduring Gardens

The husband-and-wife team of Ayus Botanical share the thoughtful processes behind their lush residential and commercial projects!
Christina Karras

Creative People

Artist and Yindjibarndi Elder Wendy Hubert On Mapping Country + Culture

Our new columnist Jirra Lulla Harvey talks to respected Yindjibarndi Elder, artist, Cultural Custodian and linguist, Wendy Hubert about Coun...
Jirra Lulla Harvey

This Week

Interiors

Two Sleek + Stylish Side-By-Side Homes On One Block!

This dual-occupancy build by Boutique Developments proves developments don't have to be generic, with each unit offering up its own contrast...
Christina Karras

Creative People

Artist and Yindjibarndi Elder Wendy Hubert On Mapping Country + Culture

Our new columnist Jirra Lulla Harvey talks to respected Yindjibarndi Elder, artist, Cultural Custodian and linguist, Wendy Hubert about Coun...
Jirra Lulla Harvey

Architecture

The Treasure-Filled Sydney Home Of Two Global Art Collectors

House Gezellig by Studio Prineas reflects their clients’ love for modernist design principles and collection of fine art.
Sasha Gattermayr
  21 hours ago

Homes

A Creative Couple’s Loft-Style Pad, With Brooklyn Vibes!

Designer Phi Do and his husband Yaniv Brayer give us a tour through their warehouse-style Richmond townhouse.

Homes

A Stylist + Podcaster’s Layered, Textured Seaside Home

Kerrie-Ann Jones’ renovated retro pad in Sydney’s southern beaches is a sun-drenched dream home!
Lucy Feagins
  5 hours ago

Interiors

A Mediterranean-Inspired Holiday Home Right On The Water’s Edge

CLO Studios styled the interior of this new Noosa home (dubbed Sky Garden) with earthy tones and pieces by local artists.

Creative People

Landscape Studio Ayus Botanical On Creating Calming + Enduring Gardens

The husband-and-wife team of Ayus Botanical share the thoughtful processes behind their lush residential and commercial projects!
Christina Karras

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life Of Costume + Production Designer, Catherine Martin

The four-time Oscar winning designer shares insights from her career working alongside husband Baz Luhrmann, and how she helped bring 'Elvis...
Christina Karras

Architecture

A Compact + Colourful Extension Of A Fun Family Home

Foomann Architects replaced this Melbourne home's dated extension with a personality-filled renovation, behind a vibrant pink door!
Christina Karras

Studio Visit

Kuku Yalanji Artist Tiarna Herczeg Creates Colourful Maps Of Country

The emerging artist shares how they found their creative voice and intuitive painting style, as their latest solo show opens in Sydney.
Christina Karras

Stays

A Dreamy Getaway With Panoramic Views In The Heart Of Hobart

Edwardian architecture meets a Japanese-style extension at this peaceful Tasmanian retreat, complete with spectacular views of the city, riv...
Christina Karras

Interiors

The 2022 Australian Interior Design Awards Winners!

From Troye Sivan's divine Flack Studio residence to a converted warehouse abode, the industry’s best designers and projects have been reve...
Christina Karras

Studio Visit

Kelly Thompson’s Playful Preston Showroom Clashes Colour In The Best Way

The clever creative behind online store, Makers’ Mrkt, gives us an inside look at her fun Preston stockroom-turned-store!
Christina Karras

Interiors

A Green New Addition For An Ageing Edwardian Home

Brave New Eco revitalises an existing Brunswick home for multiple generations with a new extension, natural material palette and clever use

News

Bruce Munro's Spectacular Light Installations Are Coming To Heide

See a showcase of light and colour when the acclaimed English-Australian artist takes over Heide Museum of Modern Art and its gardens!
Sponsored

Similar Stories

Studio Visit

Kuku Yalanji Artist Tiarna Herczeg Creates Colourful Maps Of Country

The emerging artist shares how they found their creative voice and intuitive painting style.
Christina Karras

Creative People

Landscape Studio Ayus Botanical On Creating Calming + Enduring Gardens

The husband-and-wife team of Ayus Botanical share the thoughtful processes behind their lush residential and commercial projects!
Christina Karras

Creative People

Artist and Yindjibarndi Elder Wendy Hubert On Mapping Country + Culture

Our new columnist Jirra Lulla Harvey talks to respected Yindjibarndi Elder, artist, Cultural Custodian and linguist, Wendy Hubert about Coun...
Jirra Lulla Harvey

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net