Opening at Retrospect Galleries this week, The Inbetween is an exhibition of new finely detailed and colourful works on wood by two exceptional young Australian artist/designers with a passion for life, surf and the environment.

On Saturday morning they will also present a free talk and demonstration on how to turn an old wooden box or timber panel into a stunning original artwork.

Luke Taaffe’s beautiful flowing detailed work represents a life living by the ocean and its surrounding environment. Waves, boats, whales and octopus all make regular appearances on his colourful panels, usually taken from weathered old wooden boxes.

Taaffe says the eroded and often-found materials he paints on reflect the salt-decaying effects of oceanside living and how it impacts on man’s desire for development and progress.

In contrast, the vibrant colours and ink detail he uses show the fun and privilege one has to be raised on Australia’s coastline.

“There is always a lot of colour within my work and that is because the coast is like a wonderland to me, ever changing and always beautiful,” he said.

“I try to capture this beauty and the power and terror that the ocean can bring to our lives, which in turn is showing my respect for it. I feel there is a constant struggle of balance between man and the environment and I try and express this through these isolated and almost dark scenes.”

Originally from the tiny central coast town of Wamberal, he moved to the surf mecca of Torquay, Victoria, last year to take up a dream graphic design position with Australian label, Roxy.

Like Taaffe, Mia Taninaka juggles a successful design career with her personal art practice and surf habit. 

By day she supplies quirky illustrations and designs for clients such as Channel V, Volcom and Mambo, whilst at night she likes to draw and paint on found wooden objects and panels, creating stunning colourful imaginative works inspired by her Japanese heritage.

“From an early age, I was lucky enough to do a lot of overseas travelling with my family,” she says.

“Which opened up my eyes to a very enchanting world of different cultures, colours and customs.  

“Travelling through South-East Asia in particular, I became aware of how detached from the natural world we are here in the west.

“Eastern cultures seem to have a more holistic approach to life and the role we play in the universe. They believe in the soul and spirit and have a deep respect and dignity for all creatures of the animal and plant kingdoms.

 “My parents taught me to appreciate and connect with the universe and its energy. To a lot of people a leaf is simply a leaf, but I like to look a little deeper.

“When I’m painting, everything has to connect. All the elements have a purpose and important significance.”

 Taaffe says the title of their new show, The InBetween, refers to the diverse lives that he and Taninaka lead, incorporating art, fashion and graphics, and the challenge of trying to find the balance with everything else that comes with being a young creative.

The exhibition opens 6pm Friday February 12 at Retrospect Galleries, 52 Jonson Street, Byron Bay, everyone welcome.

Or come along at 11am on Saturday for a free talk and demonstration and find out how to turn that old box or panel of wood in the shed into something new and beautiful.

Image: Luke Taaffe, Playing in the Backyard