Sancho's Dirty Laundry

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SONDER - A storefront exhibition by Musonga Mbogo

30 August 2019 by Sancho Murphy

I recently made the decision mid-year to convert the shop's front window into a pocket gallery. I thought it would be such a rad way to inject artistic speech into a pocket of the urban environment that often can be full of commercial messaging - offering passersby the opportunity to observe, pause and contemplate. Maybe even discover their new favourite artist! I'm just bulk keen with the idea of growing the reach of public art - especially to some of the Dirty Laundry customer base for whom traditional art exhibitions in a gallery sphere have proven inaccessible for whatever reason.

For the months of August & September we are currently showing select work from Musonga Mbogo. An emerging visual artist from Canberra, Australia - at just 20 years of age having already exhibited with the Melbourne Fashion Festival (VIC) and the Nishi Gallery (ACT) he has set out to present works which are palatably modern and equally avant-grade. Often times examining complex issues of diaspora, ethnicity, hybrid identity and globalisation, his bodies of works present narratives that are simultaneously ubiquitous and unique. 

SONDER is the title of Musonga's current exhibition at Dirty Laundry. The idea for the exhibition name stemmed from a discussion that was held with a friend who has the word "SONDER" tattooed on their arm (s/o Jae). The word signifies the profound feeling of realising that everyone, including strangers passed in the street, has a life as complex as one's own, which they are constantly living despite one's personal lack of awareness of it. 

Along with original works for sale, Musonga and I collaborated on a limited run of hand-finished tees which fuelled both our creative explorations - it was so dope exchanging insights into each other's creative process and technical aspects to spark this finished product. From composition, to the colours of the tees & inks, to the method in which we layered the artwork (a mixture of hand drawn elements using empty refillable MTN markers with fabric ink - topped with screen-printing) - we hope you vibe with what we've made and if so, there's still a handful left in store 

In this interview we have a conversation about Musonga's distinctive style with influences ranging from music and visual art - inviting you to look into the creative process and personal tastes to pick up what he is putting down. Read through until the end for an exhibition recap video filmed and edited by Oculo Digital and featuring an original track produced by DJ Chemi-cal in reaction to Musonga and his works. Mad CBR cross-disciplinary collab right there!


How do you start a work, do you have any rituals?

I’ve never really had any rituals for my work. Usually I’ll completely ignore art until I feel inspired – sometimes this can last a few days and other times it can last a few months. In those slower times I’ll generally listen to a lot of music or read books/ watch older cartoons (Hey Arnold still slaps to this day). Eventually, I’ll get inspired to work.

Is there an artwork that you are most proud about?
Currently, the one hanging above my bed. It’s like 1.8 x 2 m and it’s named after my Nishi Gallery exhibition ‘Black Boy Fly’. The Nishi Gallery has been one of my favourite spaces in Canberra since 2014 – and then to actually exhibit there in February was a whole trip. The painting reminds me that there is still more to be done.

How do you know when a work is finished?
If my ideas start getting too technical I’ll usually stop before I end up straight ruining the work. Usually, I’ll take all the technical ideas to a new canvas and see what comes out of it.


How did you start making art? Why do you make art?

My earliest memory of art was probably being taught how to draw cartoon characters by a school friend when I was 6 or 7. Around high school I started doing research on artists like Basquiat and Takashi Murakami and I’ve been interested ever since. I think curiosity is the reason I still make art today.

What’s going on in your artwork? How would you describe your artwork to someone who has not seen it?
It feels like listening to Playboi Carti’s self-titled project ‘Playboi Carti’ in the Louvre.

If your paintings had sound effects, what would they be? Or if your artwork was music, what would it sound like?
Probably a blend of Slowthai’s voice, Fake Jewellery and The Neptunes (Pharrell & Chad Hugo’s) production.

What do you feel when you’re creating your paintings?
Every emotion under the sun. It’s exhausting.

Many of the paintings feature scrawling text, what does the text mean/represent?
I normally use text as a time stamp for myself. Usually, what I’m listening to/looking at or thinking about at the time will end up on the canvas. That way, if I decide to look back at the painting I’ll hopefully get some insight into how I was feeling at the time and what made me feel that way.

Top to Bottom: MTN markers with textile fabric inks // Prepared screen exposure from Musonga's sketchbook // Hailstorm // Fire Warning

What have been the most successful pieces of your art? Why do you think that is?

Probably the ones that have resulted in me buying groceries hahaha. It’s a whole trip when a hobby can put food on the table.

What’s the last art show you saw? What’s your favourite place to see art?
Last show was the Ambush opening over at ANU – it’s a sick space. My favourite places to see Art are currently the NGA and the New Acton precinct. The art scenes over in Japan are fire too.

Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?
At the moment mainly through books. A close friend of mine recently put me onto Haruki Murakami – a lot of his short stories are so tight. I’ve also been reading a book on Karl Lagerfeld and a book on the Philosophy of Modern Art.

Do you collect anything?
For sure. I started collecting magazines recently; especially the ones which feature people from Canberra, like; Vogue, I-D, 10 & Oyster. It’s inspiring to see people from our city kicking down a bunch of doors and it’s what motivates me to do more.

What’s your art-world pet peeve?
The wine is hard to pronounce.

I’m really excited about this tee collab, do you remember your first piece of clothing you particularly fell in love with? When did your love of streetwear begin?
I can’t remember the first piece I feel in love with, but it was probably really warm – Canberra. I think my interest in streetwear would have begun around 2011 when I first discovered Tyler, the Creator (& Odd Future). Since then I’ve stepped back a little from streetwear but my current love for fashion is still heavily influenced by that period in my life.

What is streetwear? What does it mean to you? What does it represent?
It feels like listening to Playboi Carti’s self-titled project ‘Playboi Carti’ in the Louvre.


SONDER is currently on display with pieces for sale until the end of September 2019. Special thanks to exhibition sponsors MTN Australia.