Reg Mombassa: Landscapes
Born in New Zealand in 1951, Chris O’Doherty, otherwise known as Reg Mombassa, emigrated to Australia with his family in 1969. After graduating where from the National Art School in Sydney in 1975, he formed rock band ‘Mental as Anything’ in 1976 with four other art students. The ‘Mentals’ went on to release eleven albums and twenty-seven singles, with twenty of those entering the top forty.
Reg began working as a freelance artist in 1976, and he has worked closely with Mambo Graphics since 1986 designing t-shirts and posters. His first painting exhibition was held at Watter’s Gallery, Sydney in 1975 and he has had numerous one man shows at Watter’s ever since. His artwork is included in the permanent collections of The National Art Gallery, Canberra, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Powerhouse Museum of NSW and the University of Sydney Union.
How similar are your political beliefs to those of your family?
Reg Mombassa: Quite similar, we are all somewhat to the left of centre and we all have scepticism and disapproval of authoritarian leaders and all other pompous wankers.
Do you have a favourite family story?
RM: Yes, to ensure that his old van would start in the morning in cold and wet New Zealand my father would put a blanket and hot water bottle on the engine.
What do you hope for?
RM: A human race that is less contentious and irrational.
What do you think is your main purpose in life?
RM: To be an artist of some sort.
Do you think its ok to lie?
RM: No, but unfortunately I am an accomplished and habitual liar.
What does freedom mean to you?
RM: Being able to choose your activities and avoid prison, mental hospital and the gutter.
What do you think are the most important social issues today?
RM: Domestic violence, homophobia, racism and an excessively punitive justice system. The ridiculous war on drugs for instance, should be immediately flung in the dustbin of history.
What beliefs do you have that you think will never change?
RM: That the warrior alpha male is a dangerous and foolish creature.
Is any religious text important to you?
RM: The Bible, because it has had such an influence and presence in our history and culture, although I am not a practicing Christian and I certainly do not literally believe most of the content of the Bible.
Have you ever come close to dying?
RM: Not really, although as a young man I did stupidly drive a vehicle a couple of times while so drunk that I couldn’t walk and was virtually blind.
What do you like the best about your body?
RM: My long ape-like arms.
What do you think would be the best thing about being the opposite gender?
RM: Not having to embody stupid concepts like pride, honour and violently ruthless competition with other males.
Who is the best teacher you have ever had?
RM: Dougal Page, who was my high school art teacher.
What was your favourite book as a child?
RM: As a small child I loved Rupert the Bear books and as an older child I loved the historical novels of the Henry Treece and Rosemary Sutcliffe (what a pathetic nerd!).
If I asked a good friend of yours what you were good at, what would they say?
RM: They would probably say he was good at virtually nothing.
What stays the same in your life, no matter how much other things change?
RM: The compunction to draw and play music.
What is stopping you?
Over 200 of Mombassa’s iconic landscapes have been brought together in Reg Mombassa: Landscapes (Hardie Grant Books, October 2016). The book is an evocative retrospective of one of Australia’s most beloved and celebrated artists. Reg Mombassa’s work has been a part of the fabric of Australia’s pop culture for nearly 40 years. It is his irreverent take on life down under and his unique landscapes that have earned him a place as one of Australia’s most influential and prolific fine artists – hardiegrant.com.au
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