Cocker Alley & Nicholas Building

Cocker Alley at the back of the Nicholas Building has been largely untouched by street artists, except for a stencil work of a diving helmeted figure (by Banksy?) preserved under plexiglass, at the corner. The rest of the ally is used to store rubbish bins. Perpetually in shadow and stinking, Cocker Alley is not a welcoming place, and drawing attention to it with the Laneway Commission can only help.

“Welcome to Cocker Alley” by Bianca Faye and Tim Spicer is part of the City of Melbourne’s Laneway Commissions 08. “Welcome to Cocker Alley” imitates the external pipes of Paris’s Centre George Pompidou in an ephemeral work, the gold leaf is expected to dissolve completely over the course of the year. The pipes covered in gold are all sewer pipes coming from the toilets on that side of the Nicholas Building so there is an obvious psychological interpretation – shit is gold.

The Nicholas Building was once a modern office building; consider all the modern conduits of communication in the building, the elevator, the no longer functional mail slide that runs from the top floor to the ground. It is now a bohemian haunt, from the boutique fashion stores in the arcade with its leadlight roof, to the elevator operators and the artists, jewellery makers and fashion designers that have their studios in the building. The building also houses is also the Victorian Writers offices and three art galleries: Blindside, Pigment and Stephen McLaughlan Gallery.

When I was last in Stephen McLaughlan Gallery there were a trio of musicians rehearsing and contributing to the pleasant ambience. Laurel McKenzie was exhibiting a series of digital prints of a collage of a field of textures with figures roughly torn from the same textured surface. It creates an intense visual effect recognizing the camouflaged forms. And in the south facing part of gallery, Craig Barrett was exhibiting a series of drawings of central Australian landscapes.

A floor lower at Blindside Artist-Run Space was showing Prohibition by Pamela See. See’s contemporary paper-cut work expand this delicate traditional art to floor pieces and steel sculpture. Cutting falling leaves from old Chinese propaganda images creates a strange, ambivalent nostalgic mood.

The studios at the back of Blindside are being cleared out in preparation to create another gallery space. The Nicholas Building continues to change and evolve.


About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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