Words by – Jerram Wurlod

Photos by – J Forsyth

Ross Vaughan’s Primer exhibition in March was the first event we covered at Melbourne Arts Club. As much as I was impressed with the exhibition I didn’t realize that it would still count as one of the best I’ve seen so far. Something about it has stuck with me. I caught up with him last week to chat about the Melbourne arts scene, his passion for oil painting and his distain for concrete.

Sitting in the beer garden at the Union at 5pm on a Tuesday seemed like a good idea in order get some peace and quiet. However, the harsh Melbourne winter made things a little more uncomfortable than I thought. But, with pints in hand, we pressed on.

Ross grew up in Tasmania but has spent time in Adelaide and more recently Perth. I queried him about his move from Perth to Melbourne, “I guess it’s like the music…if artists get to a certain level they tend to just migrate to Melbourne or Sydney…. realistically that’s where you want to be as an artist or a musician”. Working full time as a chef while in Perth, Ross – as I’m sure many can relate – became pretty restless with the way things were going, “I just fell into that job, I’d never really been passionate about that, people always sort of assume that you get to express yourself creatively in that world but you really don’t”.

It had been a long time since he’d explored what is clearly a natural ability for painting. However in what sounds like a last ditch attempt at pursuing his creativity, Ross enrolled in a short course. After that he knew what he wanted to do and where he wanted to be, “I stopped for a long time, I guess I just kind of gave up on it. When I did that short course something twigged”.

Ross moved to Melbourne about 3 years ago and has since enrolled at RMIT. As we spoke more about the course I was initially surprised to hear that there was very little technical aspects to the curriculum, “You don’t really learn that anymore. It’s all about concept. But I’m interested in a pretty old fashioned type of painting”. Although his techniques may be old fashioned one of the best aspects of the Primer exhibition was how contemporary his oil portraits were, colleagues and friends in familiar settings yet presented in exquisite detail. “There is nothing wrong with paintings being approachable and simple and just beautiful to look at… I’d rather see a really well painted portrait than stand around pondering a block of concrete or whatever”.

Blocks of concrete aside I definitely admire Ross’ stance. It would be easy to assume that Ross is being a bit arrogant by making these statements, but his friendly and calm manner completely defuse any sense of arrogance and obviously afford him the ability observe detail in the everyday. Maybe if more of us had his patience and natural ability there would be fewer blocks of concrete and more stunning portraits in Melbourne’s many galleries. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more from Ross Vaughan in the near future.