Yard Shows are one-night only art exhibitions at 696 held fortnightly from November to April. The fact that exhibitions openings are when most people come to galleries in Melbourne has been taken to its logical extreme – just the opening. And there are the other advantages of exhibition openings for the artist: the feedback and networking opportunities. This works at 696 because they are able to later rotate the work in the front shop space, so that people are still able to purchase the work after the show.
The Yard, the backyard at 696 is a small urban wonderland of defunct architecture, strange signs and street art. There is a small platform stage covered in astroturf to emphasise the gravel ground. And plenty of wall space to hang pictures.
I’ve been to two show in the Yard this year. The first was the “Ill Rubber Ducky” show – “a character building experience”. For a young artist an exhibition can be a character building experience. For an aspiring character animation artist it has a double meaning. “Ill Rubber Ducky” is inspired by the lean angular figures of Peter Kunshik Chung’s animations. That night the art was being sold by a silent auction, a way of selling art that is becoming increasingly popular in Melbourne.
The second Yard show I went to was Clogged by studio mates Simon Gardam and Rhen Dodd. This time the art was hung inside 696 because it looked like it might rain. It didn’t rain and it was wonderful hanging out in the Yard having a beer and talking with some of Melbourne’s prominent street artists. Conversations that evening in the Yard were peppered with “Yair, Yair”. It reminded me that almost a century ago and half way around the world at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich the Romanian artists kept on saying “Da Da” (Yes Yes). The Yard has a great atmosphere.
Simon Gardam and Rhen Dodd share a studio space in Hope St. but their styles are completely different. Dodd is a stencil artist whose work, notably the man sleeping on a park bench, can be seen on the streets. Gardam is a savage painter who wants to depict “thought processes rather than things”. Regardless of the vast differences in their styles Gardam and Dodd were exhibiting two collaborative works in the show.