Excerpts of a review by Sasha Grishin, Art Monthly Australia, September 2012 of the book ROAR Re-viewed, 30 years on by Denise Morgan.
“ROAR was born when a converted factory space in Brunswick Street, in the inner city Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy, opened with an exhibition of over 50 works by 26 artists on 4 June 1982, one of the core members being Mark Howson.
It was a spectacularly successful launch which attracted the support of some of the heavy hitters of the Australian art world, including Patrick McCaughey, Betty Churcher, James Mollison, Chandler Coventry, Georges and Willie Mora, Stuart Purves and John Buckley.
As a physical entity, ROAR studios and accompanying exhibition space operated in one form or another until 1988, launching the careers of hundreds of artists and exhibiting a wide range of art, including early exhibitions of Aboriginal art.
ROAR was not an institution but an idea, expressed by a group of predominately Melbourne based young artists who felt that they were marching to a different drummer than the one making time for some of the oligarchy of the offical tastemakers in the local art scene.
What had changed fundamentally in the Australian art world was the realisation that the linear model for the development of art was no longer feasible. In fact, art did not develop on a single trajectory leading from Impressionism through Cubism to Conceptual art, but was characterised by a complex decentralised pluralism; art of equal relevant could be, and was being made in Papunya as in Paris, and for that matter, in Melbourne as in New York.
In view of all this, the decision by a group of young artists to go figurative and expressionist in the early 1980s was neither particular daring nor unexpected. But as a group dynamic involving such highly talented individuals, this was indeed unusual and stuck an immediate cord with both the art world and the broader public. Melbourne was ready and waiting for the ROAR phenomenon.
ROAR got its name as a visual and verbal pun. One of the core members of the group, Mark Howson, drew a rough sketch of the Tasmanian tiger, which he has seen in silent black-and-white film footage, and this came to serve as the group emblem, while another member, Sarah Faulkner, came up with the idea of ROAR and its ‘raw’ pun. In short, ROAR came into being as a reference to the noise made by an extinction animal in silent film and was conceived to promote raw art. Catching the public imagination, the ROAR studios and their exhibitions became highly publicised artistic and social events.
What was the achievement of ROAR? In the short term, it stirred up the local art scene with an excitement which was utterly genuine, and both the art public and the popular press were infected with this excitement. Art appeared as fun and as an alternative to establishment values, where young people could opt out of society and do something that was creative and popularly accepted. Its most immediate achievement was that it revitalised the art world and gave birth to the mythology og a vigorous, youthful, punk-like figuration expressed with vitality and conviction.”