Cutting edge: artist Glenno Smith linos up with icon Reg Mombassa
By ALEC SMART
Reg Mombassa, surrealist artist and musician (and resident of Glebe), has teamed up with Glenno Smith, er, also a surrealist artist and musician (but former resident of Glebe), in a joint creative project that is being exhibited at Rogue Pop-Up Gallery in Redfern under the title Creatures: Losing the War on Nature.
The exhibition features a range of lino-cut prints, the lino initially prepared by Smith, with illustrations then drawn by Mombassa, before being carved and printed by Smith. The exhibition title refers to climate change and the loss of species and ecological habitats, topics that occur frequently in Mombassa’s ironic, iconic illustrations.
However, he and Smith have a lot in common, not least their talent for viewing the world through bizarre lenses that utilise humour and dreamlike, sometime nightmarish, landscapes to make critical observations.
They are also both Mambo artists, working with the original surf apparel label; Glenno since 2016, Reg a veteran since 1986. Reg’s posters and T-shirt designs were so influential in setting a zany template for Mambo that today he has become synonymous with the brand.
Glenno Smith and Chris Doherty - aka Reg Mombassa - in front of one of their major artworks
Neighbourhood Media interviewed Glenn ‘Glenno’ Smith – for 2037 magazine
Congratulations on the joint exhibition with Reg Mombassa - two major talents of warped Australian art together in one venue. How did the collaboration with Reg come about?
I simply asked him and he said yes. He's a very nice man - a down-to-earth surrealist. I'm very lucky he said yes to this collaboration because it's a rare thing for him to get involved in. We have both been through a similar ‘do a band, make art, go to art college, work for Mambo, be more of an artist’ sort of trajectory.
What is the meaning behind the exhibition title, ‘Creatures: Losing The War On Nature’
It's a blanket-term that sums up a lot of Reg's imagery and universe that we used for the show - this species is losing its war on nature. It's a real horror-show of stupidity - sort of like the war of drugs - pointless. Greed and ignorance leading to extinction. Fun themes like that.
The artworks are printed lino cuts, but do you have a preferred medium to work in that you most commonly utilise?
I love to draw using black ink pens; a very cheap, transportable sort of medium that’s very simple to use but hard to master.
There’s a photo in the exhibition catalogue of you and Reg playing guitars together. Is there a chance of a musical collaboration in the future, or are your musical tastes too far apart?
Not sure that would work. He has as many balls in the air as I have musically and artistically, so that wouldn't be possible. I love his music though!
Glenno (left) performing with Jason Whalley in Chinese Burns Unit. Photo: Alec Smart
How is your band, Chinese Burns Unit, progressing? Have you managed to perform the latest album, Borrowed Gear, in the post-Covid world?
This was the first album that an actual label put out - everything has always been DIY, self-funded when it comes to art or music. Vinyl is still what I put out all the music I write in all my separate bands.
I have a band called HELLEBORES with my wife Gina [artist Gina Smithaco] and two killer friends, and a full-on band called OUTCEST with some mates. Chinese Burns Unit is a rare bird these days; the guys in that band all have so much on their plates, but we are going to do a new album soon.
A favourite cartoon of yours is the Fleetwood Mac ‘Tumours’ parody - very black humour! Do you worry sometimes that censors or trolls might harass you to tone down your darker side?
I don't care about that side of this new anonymous culture - it's a cowardly and narcissistic type that feels they are getting offended by things that don't align with their world-view. I like irony, parody and especially hearing from other people’s viewpoint; whether it's fierce or stupid, ignorant or life-changing. Comedy these days seems to be under attack and a lot of it is watered down to keep the vocal minority appeased, which is a shame. I'm always willing to listen to the contrarian - some of them are spot on.
Fleetwood Mac - 'Tumours' - art by Glenno Smith
Your Tintin spoof covers are hilarious. I recall Tintin in Quarantine and Tintin in Penrith. How many have you created and is there another in the works?
Not really - the Penrith one was first. I did a Tony Abbott Canberra one and also a Shire. I grew up on those comic books and just love to hassle all the sacred cows of my childhood.
Cats feature heavily in your portraiture, from one-eyed surfing moggies to Satanic felines to portraits of friends’ pets. How come you like cats?
They are incredible creatures - it's hard to explain why - you just know when you've made that connection or lived with a couple of them - we have 3 cats at the moment, 4 if you count the guy that keeps on coming in - his name is Garfy Gaddafi.
Did you grow up in Glebe or arrive there during your adolescence?
I grew up in Orange, but made a bee-line to Sydney to attend art college - I lived in Bridge Rd for a while in that time - loved the Glebe markets, while rents were still AuStudy affordable.
What was Glebe like then and how did it shape your creativity?
The suburb has always been a place of eccentrics. One of my favourite comic/ record stores was on Glebe Point Road - Half A Cow Records – a hugely influential store for the early punk scene for both music and art. A lot of my friends lived along Glebe Point Road in pokey little student accommodation.
Anything you’d like to add?
I’d love people to go see Creatures: Losing The War On Nature. It's a print show, so the pieces won't destroy the average budget. There's also some individual art we've made separately, to show what we do apart from this combined style.
Spoof Tintin covers - art by Glenno Smith
Creatures: Losing the War on Nature
5-30 October 2022
Rogue Pop-Up Gallery, 130 Regent St, Redfern
Glenno's iconic lino artworks available on Mambo Australia apparel exclusively at BIG W online and in-store nationwide.