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Bond librarian’s combined passions trigger unique form of art

September 8, 2021

Raelene Saheli is looking forward to exhibiting her shotgun art at the SWELL Festival on Currumbin Beach. PICTURE: Cavan Flynn

Blasting sheets of aluminium with a 12-gauge shotgun doesn’t fit the stereotype of your average mild-mannered librarian.

But for Raelene Saheli, a casual library assistant at Bond University, her exploits with a firearm more commonly associated with Olympic clay target shooting are a form of art, art which will this month see her work feature for the first time in the annual SWELL Festival, held on Currumbin Beach.  

Ms Saheli has been passionate about art for as long as she can remember, even studying it as far back as Year 12.

“I’ve always been interested in art, I’ve studied it, and over the last few years really started to showcase my work, I’ve exhibited at Woolloongabba in Brisbane, Gold Coast, Ballina, and all the way down to Melbourne.”

Her transition down the novel path of using a firearm to create her work came after one of her lecturers urged her to explore her own story in art, prompting a move away from traditional forms of painting to a new form of expression, one which drew on her background as a competitive shooter.

Creating her art was a rewarding process, Ms Saheli said.

“I’m a mum, I’m a wife, it is hard to sometimes juggle all of it, but at the end of the day, this is something that’s just me, the work I produce at the moment is definitely a reflection of myself.

“I’ve just combined my two loves, I’m a competitive shooter, and also my art, so what people are seeing is definitely a reflection of myself.”

Ms Saheli has created her art on materials as varied as aluminium, paper and laminated glass, and said the unexpected nature of her work was what excited her.

“It’s more about the process than the actual result – but obviously you do want something that’s going to be a beautiful end result. Every time I’m using new material, that’s where the excitement starts.

“I shoot at it and there’s so many variables – it could be my aim, the ammunition I’m using, the material I’m using. Once I’ve shot at it, it’s still really exciting when I’m walking up to check it out, then when I turn it and flip it over and see the patterns I’m making, that’s the part that gives me my drive I suppose.”

Her artwork at SWELL, Passing Through, is a series of life-size tube aluminium sculptures that have had more than 100 rounds of ammunition fired at them, leaving a pattern for light to pass through.

She said the shotgun created unique patterns on the aluminium, and the holes interacted with light and shadow.

“Through the day they look like one thing, and at night they’ll be lit up with lights, it’ll be a slightly different look again, playing on that shadow and light theme.”    

Ms Saheli said she also saw her art as a way to educate the wider community about competitive shooting.

“It’s a great experience to be able to educate the community too, that the sport that I do is very safe, very family-orientated, and then to be able to have it as my art form too, it has that lovely combination between the two of them.”