Raygun Projects

IMG_3232Raygun Projects, based in Toowoomba, Queensland is the inspiration of two artists Tarn McLean, a painter and Alexandra Lawson, a social artist. Over the last few years Raygun Projects has operated out of a small but exquisite space on the first floor above the shops of Margaret Street, one of the main streets in downtown Toowoomba.

Tarn McLean and Alexandra Lawson. Ruthven St Toowoomba
Tarn McLean and Alexandra Lawson, outside Phat Burgers, Ruthven St Toowoomba

I visited Raygun Projects recently, synchronising my own visit with visiting curator Louise Lassen Iversen from Denmark, who had been invited to come and stay and be part of a discussion titled, “To Self-Organise”.  I had met both Louise and Tarn in Copenhagen in 2014, while attending the Artist Run Festival organised by Honey Biba-Beckerlee and Suada Ada Demirovic. But that’s another story. (see this blog August 14)

And yet it is very characteristic of the global reach that Raygun Projects has managed to develop over the last five years or so. In that time Raygun has set themselves the task of creating “a global dialogue while based in a regional city.” And they have succeeded in doing just that and more. Their stated focus for the art dialogue that they seek is specific and directed to the fields of interests of the two artists which is,  “Social Art and varied modes of painted realities associated with the expansion of contemporary Painting.”

Over the last five years the artists, or “gunners” have invited many out-of-town artists –  and looking through the Raygun archives online I counted fifty artists or art projects that have visited or shown in this beautiful and energetic regional city. The artists invited to come to Toowoomba are both national and international. The invited artists are artists that “Raygunners” would like to get to know; to talk with, connect with, to enrich the practices of both the guests and hosts, and to carry the dialogue further.

Raygun Projects space overlooking Margaret Street

SHARING, LOVING, GIVING is the title of a collaborative project between Alexandra Lawson and Tarn McLean, which they showed at NLHspace in Copenhagen during the Artist-Run Festival. The project utilised the notion of “‘gift’ as “a gesture in the meeting between people. Thus letting the social interaction of the everyday into the exhibition space.” This project, with its emphasis on gift, generosity and hospitality encapsulates the larger Raygun Project itself, and the three words Sharing, Loving, Giving capture perfectly what Raygun Projects actually does. It is a way of working, a methodology,  an attitude. And the energy it generates picks you up and takes you somewhere else – somewhere where art really does matter.

This very particular and generous project, it seems to me, broadens the nature and role of artist-runs to include: walking, talking and eating together. And the work that the invited guest artist brings to show in the Raygun space becomes one part of a larger encounter and engagement of great intensity between artists and the larger art community of Toowoomba.

I found this very exciting.

Toowoomba from my window
Toowoomba from my window