Put four artists working in different media – printmaking, ceramics, photography and video – behind the post-box red door of Home@735 and you have multiple possibilities in the mix. Right on the Bourke St cycleway, this Victorian-era terrace in Redfern East is on a collision course to shake up perceptions of what a gallery should be, or could be, in terms of art engaging the local community.
Home@735 is a series of intimate spaces. Minimalist white walls grounded in dark-stained Kauri floorboards. Corridors and stairs, landings and archways; offset angles that distract the eye. It takes a series of deft moves to negotiate the exhibition layout, curated imaginatively by Madeleine Preston.
In the main room, a framed selection of Anna Cuthill’s Dreamland series dominates the walls. Her probing photographic insights into Sydney’s western suburbs provoke a Lynchian disquiet, asking questions in their detached documentary style. The blue curtains of the Petersham Town Hall shimmer from a large format C-type print, awaiting an audience; or perhaps a clanging guitar chord from the Vox valve amplifier which stands below, realia on permanent display @735. Accentuating these suburban dreams, video artist William R. Bullock’s installation of sound and vision radiates from the corner. One of Ruth Ju-Shih Li’s paired ceramic works, Twin Summits, sits at the end of this assemblage, like found objects discovering new shelf life and context. As if Cuthill may have collected their treasured crystalline glaze in her trawl of the ‘burbs.
Somehow it all hangs together, enhanced by the progressively morphing colours and patterns rippling from the ‘digital fireplace’ format on the flatscreen TV. Those who are drawn to don the headphones are initiated into yet another sensory experience: sounds predicated in mesmeric drone frequencies, noise manipulated from field recordings. Dare to pull the jack out of the back of the TV and new possibilities for group meditative experiences emerge in shifting shapes…Bullock calls it Alter’d Ego & After Dark 2.
There’s a distinct style to this monthly gallery event in that it provokes conversations. It’s that intimacy thing again. Between people as well as interplay among the artworks themselves. You can’t avoid interaction, tactile as well as verbal; chance meetings as you descend the staircase, jostle in the corridor or congregate on the landing.
Upstairs an illusory effect is brought on by ceramicist Li’s signature piece Movement II which summons attention from its plinth at the centre of a mirrored cabinet. Its celadon blue finish glistens like a portal to another reality. But even the most questing visitor can go no further. The corridor ends and the mirror pushes back, forcing examination of several smaller ceramic works. Wave forms interspersed with scientific vessels, test tubes, funnels and beakers, fused together in new aggregations like the debris from an industrial laboratory accident. These are juxtaposed with a series of alluring one-offs from printmaker Sally Anderson. She works from word associations to inform her etching, collagraph and mixed media process to bring relief and texture to an unusual colour palette. An exploration of suggestive subjects and forms: breasts, milk, pancakes, corn and galactic associations; Anderson’s prints allude to an uncertain world hanging in the ether.
But it is the most unusual piece that reflects the exhibition’s collective theme. A selection of letters between protagonists Rick and Julie in the early 90s, lost transmissions salvaged from an anonymous nature strip. The dialogue punctuates the Dreamland collection, hand-written artefacts from a pre-Internet age that provoke voyeuristic fascination in the reader. You feel like you’re trespassing into the most private of places. Rather apt for Home@735, as you look around and suddenly realise you’re up close and getting very personal in someone else’s lounge room.
words by James Compton