Right near the NSW/ Queensland border is the town of Chinderah where I found a very unique artist-run gallery called Curious Art Gallery. And it is curious. It is situated in the front office building of the local caravan park.
The space is full of all sorts of things. artists’ books, sculptures, drawings, paintings, cards, objects and other ephemera. The collective is eclectic – this is no white cube minimalist modernist gallery, with strict protocols, rather there is a feeling of open-ness and curiosity. On their website they state that “Curious Art is a progressive art movement.”
In 2011, Curious Art celebrated their 10 year anniversary.The day I visited, Clare Johnson was minding the gallery. She is an artist who makes whimsical and charming drawings that she calls Miss Prissy’s World Series.
On my last visit to Sydney, back in August, I visited Articulate Project Space in Leichhardt. It’s located on a non-descript part of Parramatta Road – a block past Norton St. I was very keen to see this space as many Sydney artists had mentioned it when I described my ARI project. There was a certain buzz and excitement around the space. I was getting a good feeling. So I went. It’s true. It’s a great space, with lots of good energy. The day I visited there was a lot of buzzy preparation noises as artists prepared for the opening of Black and White. The space had been a former garage reformed into an airy and atmospheric artspace with enough room for several artists’ studios upstairs and the major exhibition space downstairs. When I interviewed Sue Callanan, Kate Williams and Wies Schuiringa they mentioned that the original idea was more focused on having artists’ spaces, rather than setting up a gallery or ARI. It just sort of evolved as people realised what a great space it was and as artists began working together, and inviting other artists to show their work.
Kate Williams, Sue Callanan and Wies Schuiringa in the upstairs space.
While visiting the La Trobe Valley I visited ARC Yinnar purportedly the oldest artist run initiative or space in Australia! It’s located in the small and charming town of Yinnar, and occupies a large rambling building that was once the local butter factory. The gallery is open 6 days a week, run by local volunteers and houses all sorts of facilities and equipment and studio spaces for artists. We were given a quick tour of the building and shown the ceramic studio with oven, printing room with old presses, a photographic dark room and lots more. I was really impressed. The current exhibition, FRAGMENTS a show of textiles by the Fibre Artists Network was a great treat. Some really lovely, creative and bold pieces on show.
Beginning next Monday, Norie and I will finally have time and space to work on our CoalFace project. We’ve got a residency at The Library Art Space here in Melbourne. Library Artspace invites people to work in the space for a month – at the end of the month artists have a closing event, rather than opening event. This is a great idea for us, as we desperately need the time set aside and the space.
In preparation, last weekend we took a roadtrip to the La Trobe Valley to see the brown coal Power stations and open cut mines. The La Trobe Valley is the most beautiful green valley, with gently rolling hills and dales with tons of cows grazing on the green pasture. And then suddenly on the horizon looms the gigantic power stations. Monumental and grand. If I wasn’t worried about the effects of coal mining on the health of the planet I would have to say they are amazing and astonishing pieces of architecture. Hazelwood, considered the dirtiest mine in the OECD – looked amazing. Huge and ominous, the film Metropolis came immediately to mind. Loy Yang was another Power station that we visited where you can actually drive through and see the enormous open-cut mine on one side and the power station on the other.
During the month-long residency I will blog my own experience of being an artist working in an ARI. Research by immersion. We’ve also set up a Tumblr blog for the project – Coal Face.
Loy Yang Power Station, La Trobe Valley. View from Miner’s view.
Marrickville Garage is exactly what the name implies. It is a garage in Marrickville that two artists have turned into a gallery. In 2012 Jane Polkinghorne and Sarah Newell decided to fix up their garage as an artist-run space. They spent the summer emptying out the accumulated rubbish, fixing the walls, re-pointing the plaster (whatever that means) and filling in the holes. They also fixed up the outside dunny – which they described as ‘disgusting’… I can only imagine, although I”m trying not to.
The Garage is in the suburbs. It’s not near any arts precinct or arts hub. Yet from the start the audience has come. The day I visited, which was the morning after the night before’s opening event – Jane and Sarah were sitting in their smallish backyard already drinking tea and chatting to a young neighbour, who had popped around. The two artists are friends and this is their first collaboration.
The night before our meeting I attended the opening. Jürgen Kerkovius Terror Australis was a video installation inside the garage. Minimal, strange and alluring. Outside, Margaret Roberts made a work on the doors of the old dunny as well as the garage door – strong green line drawings, apparently referring to Wladyslaw Strzeminski’s 1929 Architectural Composition 13c. I’m not familiar with Strzeminski’s work, but the green architectural lines seemed to map out a space of possibility. There was a wonderful energy around the event and the space. The next day, I was back and spent a couple of hours in the Sydney winter sun chatting with Jane and Sarah about how and why Marrickville Garage came to be. This ARI is a good fit with the idea put forward by John Cruthers in Art Monthly, (“Home is where the art is: the rise of home-based galleries”, Issue 246, Summer 2011)and mentioned by Sarah Nolan in a previous post – see below – of the phenomenon of “home-based galleries.” More soon on this idea.
Back in August while staying in Sydney I visited Branch 3D.
This is a window space run by the artist Sarah Nolan. It is in the front room of her inner-city house – located in Forest Lodge, just down the road from Sydney University. The deep green house sits right on the street, and the front window takes up most of the front wall. It can’t be missed by any passer-by, either walking or driving. On first seeing the Window I was immediately intrigued by its ambiguous situation. I imagine people on buses sitting in traffic day-dreaming as they sit idly looking at this surprising Window. And wonder.
The day I visited Branch the artist in the window was Alex Wisser, with a work titled “The Forest for the Trees”. It was a very suggestive and provocative work and cleanly executed with a perfectly stacked series of cans all wrapped in photos of trees and forests. Some photos were close-ups of the trees, others were taken at a distance. The overall arrangement suggested a 1950s supermarket stack. Yet the multiple views of a forest from different angles, different perspectives undermined this happy shopping allusion. To wrap images of trees and forests around a stack of cans brought to mind a rich swirl of words and associations like markets and commodification, disposable, throwaway, supermarket sales, something we can eat, a beautiful world easily packaged… the list could go on. The title too evoked a sense of short-sightedness, a way of looking that misses the point. There is no artist statement to lead you to the right answer to this enigma. The Window is there, it is intriguing and you make of it what you will.
During my visit I spoke to Sarah about her Window and her own experiences of ARIs and the artworld in general, which I will write about later. During the course of our conversation Sarah mentioned an article from Art Monthly by John Cruthers, (Issue 246, 2011) who coined the term “home-based” galleries. This has been a really productive idea for me as it captures a particular series of ARIs that I’ve noticed that work in quite a different way to the traditional ARI which usually means “emerging” and newly minted from art school. The “home-based” galleries and spaces that I’m now finding are often older artists who are jack of the funding mazes and impatient to make and show their work, simply and easily. They are creating spaces in their own homes, like garages, living rooms and like Branch 3D windows are a significant place for showing work. On her website Sarah has listed some of these ‘other’ places of exhibition — see here.