Melbourne’s gallery scene is moving northwest, into the laneways off Elizabeth Street, away from Hosier Lane and the ‘Paris end’ of the city. The old blue-stone factories that once operated in these lanes have long closed and their large rough spaces are being turned into art galleries including: Brood Box, Utopian Stumps, 1000 Pound Bend and Guildford Lane Gallery. Many of these spaces also operate cafes and other function spaces in combinations with the galleries.
On Friday I was walking around these laneways looking at several exhibitions and the street art in the laneways. Graham Brindley had invited me to an opening at Guildford Lane Gallery the night before, but I couldn’t make it due to a meeting for Sweet Streets (the re-branded Melbourne Stencil Festival). Graham Brindley had invited me after I reviewed some of his work in 09 VCA Grad Show. It was a group exhibition called “Substance” at the top floor of Guildford Lane Gallery. The show proposes to explore “materiality through process”. Veronica Cavern Aldous did this wonderfully with her “Speed and stillness 5”, a LED light box mounted behind a larger block semi transparent yellow Perspex. It looks like a small, animated Rothko as the colours subtly changed. Graham Brindley’s work, “Counterpoint” was one of the strongest works in the show and deserving the centre of the gallery. The white and lead grey paint boxes stood dramatically opposite each other, the positive and the negative, the materials determining the process of creation and exhibition.
“Discreet Objects”, a group exhibition at Utopian Stumps (also in Guildford Lane) was worth a look to see Lauren Berkowitz’s “Installation #04”. It is post minimalist curtain of pages from a telephone book is impressive and beautiful. Her “White Residue” made of thread and leather cricket ball off-cuts was not as successful because it lacked the geometric order of her “Installation #04”. Alex Martinis Roe’s glass and steel sculpture is minimalist and coherent. Sriwhana Spong’s two silk (dyed with coca cola) pockets were a clever adaptation of the formal square of material support with the images and objects contained in the pocket rather than applied to the surface.
At Brood Box I talked with Justin Garnsworthy, the artists behind “Recipe for disaster”, the current exhibition. He is currently doing his Masters in Fine Art at Monash. The exhibition is a bit like Basquiat meets Schwitters. Bread is the central theme for this exhibition by Garnsworthy. Bread is the basis of civilization and the scavenging birds become the symbolic enemy. The recipe for bread becomes the recipe for the current disaster of civilization. Garnsworthy has used bread in a number of ways in his art: as a mask for aerosol painting, creating brick like patterns in the background of some paintings and casts of bread in aluminium.
“Hey Joe, where are you going with that paint brush in your hand?” I also saw Joe at Brood Box, he was cleaning things up from the previous exhibition that he’d run there and was also preparing for an opening at Warburton Lane Gallery that night. I’d seen him in the MX News (8/7/10) the day before – but we hadn’t spoken on that occasion. I first got to know Joe when I interviewed him about his approach to artistic training and education – see my blog entry about that.
Visiting the laneways off Elizabeth Street is a must for any Melbourne urban explorer interested in contemporary art or just a cup of coffee.