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Town Hall Gallery opens for 2021 with our first Community Exhibition ‘Let’s Go!’ by John Romeo. Harking back to the style and character of the 1920s and 1930s, this exhibition brings together a collection of thrilling new works by the artist, highly saturated with colour and suffused with nostalgia. This series uses mixed media photography with digital printing and 3D modelling, lending the works a graphic quality reminiscent of the hand-coloured advertising and poster-art of the era. ‘Let’s Go!’ encourages the viewer to step out of the modern world and bask in the romance of travel and the spirit of freedom encapsulated by this period.

Tell us a little about your background and how this led to becoming an artist

When I was young I didn't enjoy reading much but I would stare for ages at images in magazines and books in the school library. Covers of old adventure novels and pulp magazines would fascinate me for ages and I would be taken to other worlds and places. I guess I was always a visual person and wanted to create that type of artwork. Like many artists I need to create. I derive huge satisfaction from producing something of merit and beauty.

Tell us more about the artworks in ‘Let’s Go!’

This project relates to all ages on all levels as it seeks to inspire a sense of wonder and limitless possibility in all of us. It reminds us of the beauty of the natural world both locally and globally and encourages us to get out and explore it by any means available. This could start with something as simple as a stroll in our own stunning parks and gardens here in Boroondara. The works in ‘Let’s Go!’ are influenced by the commercial art of the early to mid-20th century; pulp art, movie posters and swap cards of the 1960s that I collected growing up. My work has a sense of joyful liberation, I want this exhibition to make visitors smile and think ‘that's cool’.

What particular themes interest and inspire you as an artist?

Adventure, nostalgia and fun. I think art doesn’t always need to be serious; it shouldn’t need weighty symbolism to have value and have a connection with an audience.

What is your creative process?

I usually sketch out a design first then have a photo shoot with a model in the relevant poses. I select a background from my library of landscapes that I have shot over the years from all over the world. I then import that into 3D software and clothe the model in the appropriate costume. The final step is to digitally "hand paint" the image.

What do you most enjoy about creating art and what is most challenging?

I make my living as a professional photographer. Surviving solely as an artist would be extremely challenging. For 2021, I'm thinking of a series of ballet images, but with a twist. For example, two ballerinas fighting with samurai swords!

Is there any advice you would give to people considering applying to the Community Exhibition program in 2021?

It's a really worthwhile and fun endeavour. Sharing your work with your community adds to a sense of belonging and trying to sell your work is irrelevant.

See ‘Let’s Go!’ in person or view as part of Town Hall Gallery’s online exhibitions.

Arts and culture