RIOT! Artist Interviews #5: Rhys Cousins and Richard McMahon

RIOT! is Connection Arts Space’s second digital group exhibition being delivered daily via Instagram.  The exhibition carves out a space for our artists and the audience to explore various themes such as philosophy, social issues, politics, spirituality and religion, while seeking to elevate voices that are typically pushed to the margins. We asked participating artists one simple but complex question:


Rhys Cousins

Cousins Architecture

My father was a proud unionist. He always expressed that people were the priority – I guess this rubbed off on me. Almost all the work I do, whether art, landscape architecture, design, is for and with people in mind. I often work trans-disciplinary as I believe working in cross cultural, disciplinary and genders is paramount to addressing larger social and political issues.

My work is often in opposition to commercialisation and commodification of urban cities – particularly advertising’s role in this, and how it trivialises and manipulates for its own agenda for consumerism and capital. This will only get worse with predicted increases in population to urban centres (from a present 55% to 68% by 2050).

My personal belief grounds itself in the primacy of human experience, particularly of the everyday (phenomenological ontology). This informs much of the work I produce. I am an optimist with bouts of pessimism, I believe in the endless potential of humankind, while recognising the multitude of ever-growing problems.

Richard McMahon

Richard’s Vimeo

‘Id’s Journey’ (still) – view the full video here.

My motivation for creating art is an instinctive response to the expressive energy that abounds within. I’ve had a diverse life spanning Trade / Technical / Engineering as well as Performing Arts (Music / Ballet / Singing / Drama). I was fortunate enough to get to perform with Opera Australia in the late 1990s.

I create art for many reasons. Sometimes for fun, but often as a reaction to my perceptions of what isn’t right with the world. It is a multifaceted and subjective argument. Like so many artists, social justice, the political and humanitarian, and the environment weigh heavily on the psyche.

The art I create that is more academic in nature, tends to live in the realm of the abstract and non-didactic. My hope is that these artworks give the audience something to think about, using surrealism and obtuse methods to express feelings of tension and concern. Often this is done with audio-visual works. My arts practice is interdisciplinary, and incorporates video, painting & drawing, photography, sculpture, sound, the performative, other. Wherever the mind shall wander in a freeform free association mode of production.

I applied to be in Riot with a view to quite simply…participating. I have high regard for Connections and commend their support of artists from all walks of life, and in so doing like the idea of reciprocation.

What do I believe in? That’s a big question. Probably ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’ is a subject that comes close to the answer. I feel I am a humanitarian. I try to give respect to all. With the state of world politics, that can be a frequent struggle and a source of anxiety. Having said all this, my hope is that education and an increasingly ‘more clever society’ can improve what needs to be improved and fix the big issues. I stay positive.

The two videos being exhibited; ID’s Journey and Magog are really my attempts at expressing concern about all manner of subjects. They’ve been described as dystopian and scifi in theme. I try to keep my work relatively open and therefore prefer not to dictate what they are about by means of description.

The RIOT! exhibition concluded on Friday 16 October. Keep an eye out for our future exhibitions via Instagram and Facebook.

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