Scene News: Melbourne Artist Rone Announces Monumental Transformation of Flinders Street Station’s Upper Level and Ballroom.

MELBOURNE ARTIST RONE UNLOCKS TIME WITH A MONUMENTAL TRANSFORMATION OF FLINDERS STREET STATION’S MYSTERIOUS UPPER LEVEL AND BALLROOM

The Clockroom, 2022. RONE. 

Tickets go on sale at 10am (AEST) Thursday 29 September.

In his most expansive project yet, internationally renowned artist Rone is set to take over one of Melbourne’s most iconic locations with Time: an epic new installation that will occupy Flinders Street Station’s hidden third floor and ballroom, bringing a lost era of Melbourne history back to life. Over three years since its inception, Time will open to the public on Friday 28 October.

Once a hive of activity post-war, housing sporting clubs, language classes, a rooftop running track and the fabled ballroom, the space has long been a white whale for the artist: impossible to get into and crumbling from years of neglect. Timeis a nostalgic love letter to mid-century Melbourne and a tribute to one of its great icons – capturing both the timeless character of the 112-year-old site, and the sentimental detail of a period of the city’s life long lost to progress.

While Empire told the imagined stories of the wealthy upper class, Time shines a light on the working class – offering fictional histories that will transport audiences to post-WWII Melbourne through dressed installations of the artist’s making. Visitors will explore 11 distinctly themed rooms filled with countless original and meticulously recreated period objects, evocative lighting and sound design, and the majestic character of the circa-1910 building. Profoundly atmospheric, the project takes audiences on a journey to the typing pools, machine rooms and public libraries of mid-1900s Melbourne and back again, as Rone’s haunting signature female portraits hover serene and ghost-like above each scene.

Bringing Rone’s ethereal architectural interventions to one of Australia’s most recognisable landmarks, the project builds on an extensive body of work that follows the artist’s groundbreaking Burnham Beeches outing, Empire (2019), which saw the dramatic transformation of a faded Art Deco mansion in the Dandenong Ranges; and most recently, Rone in Geelong(2021), which offered a comprehensive survey of his work of the past two decades.

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne (ca. 1925-1935). Supplied by State Library Victoria.

“For years, I had heard all these stories about the mysterious ballroom above Flinders Street Station. I always wondered how much of it was truth and how much was urban myth. I was desperate to get in there,” Rone explains.

Shrouded in secrecy since the 1980s, locked up and dust-filled, the site was far from easy to access. Yet Rone’s creative vision and trademark tenacity saw him make it happen – overcoming multiple barriers to triumph with his most monumental and labour-intensive project to date.

“I find it fascinating that there is an entire wing of the building that was locked up for decades,” he explains. “Once I discovered how important these spaces had been in the past, I knew I wanted to share that with people.”

Long-time Rone collaborators contributing to the project include set decorator Carly Spooner, who collected countless period pieces from op shops, garage sales and Gumtree listings for the project, including fourteen matching vintage typewriters and a unique collection of antique medicine bottles; sound composer Nick Batterham, whose evocative music will soundtrack the transportive experience; and Callum Preston, a multi-talented creative whose team of set builders crafted the multitude of structures and replica furniture items seen throughout the show.

Rone explains that the various vulnerabilities and restrictions surrounding the heritage-listed space meant that he had to engage a team of more than 120 professionals to work over a period of several months to complete Time’s meticulous installation process – with scenic artists, lighting designers, heritage experts, riggers, and many others working behind the scenes to bring his vision to life.

“It has taken more than three years to bring this project to life and when I began the process back in 2019, no one had really been up here for 40 years,” Rone explains. “Though it was a dream come true to finally get the go-ahead, for a long while I wasn’t actually allowed into the space, so a lot of it had to be done remotely – and then all at the last minute. Between heritage restrictions and pandemic lockdowns, there were a lot of hoops to jump through.”

Indeed, with Melbourne’s lockdowns rendering the space off-limits for the best part of 2020, Rone was given only a brief window of time to enter and digitally scan the whole third floor, with much of the project planned and pre-visualised remotely using computer aided design and drafting software.

As the upper level and ballroom remain tightly under wraps, Rone and his team are now in their final weeks of preparation before Time unveils itself this October.

Time is an open-ended narrative – there’s no right or wrong way to experience the space, just trails that I hope people will pick up. People make their own story, and every person will experience it differently,” says Rone.

“The work that has gone into Time is the culmination of 21 years of working as an artist in Melbourne. The Flinders Street ballroom has been my white whale. The work won’t last – it has been designed with a limited lifespan in mind – but I hope the stories will live on.”

The result is a multidimensional experience that sensitively responds to the building’s architecture while allowing the viewer to enter their own contemplation of time and its unbound possibilities. Across each of the 11 dressed installations, an ethereal immersion unfolds, referencing a long-lost period of Melbourne’s past and inviting a meditation on the meaning of time, progress, and loss.

A monumental work of grandly ambitious scale inhabiting one of Australia’s greatest landmarks, this immersive, multi-sensory installation presents a once-in-a-lifetime experience that audiences will remember for time to come.

ABOUT RONE

Over the past two decades, Melbourne-based artist Tyrone ‘Rone’ Wright has established an international reputation for his distinctive large-scale portraits and hauntingly atmospheric multimedia installations – which, since 2016, have pursued an increasingly ambitious scale.

Through his sensitive, detailed transformations of derelict and forgotten spaces, Rone invites audiences to engage in richly sensory experiences that present intriguing fictional histories and explore the divergent themes of beauty and decay, materiality and loss.

His ground-breaking projects Empire (2019), The Omega Project(2017), and Empty (2016) have drawn broad audiences and gained international media attention, cementing his role as a genre-pushing innovator. Most recently, the site-specific Rone in Geelong (2021) installation saw the artist explore his signature style at Geelong Gallery in regional Victoria, developing a narrative that responded to the gallery’s collection and the architecture and history of the building. The exhibition also presented the first significant survey of Rone’s career thus far, charting his early stencil works and street art alongside photographs documenting his major installations.

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