Naomi Gall gets lost and sees what she can find in her own hometown.
It seems every other week another gallery pops up in what is increasingly known as the ‘Chippendale Art Precinct’ in Sydney. Armed with my camera (phone) and glasses that make me look more arty, I decide to go exploring. Jumping on a bus from the suburbs I arrive at Town Hall at 10am. Given that I can’t string together a declarative sentence without caffeine, I decide to stop off at one of my favourite little cafes, Parlour Lane Roasters.
Parlour Lane is on Market Street next to the State Theatre (just a few doors down from Topshop) and is part of the QT Hotel. There’s something very European about Parlour Lane: dark lighting, gorgeous interiors (some of which are original) and Edith Piaf crooning softly over the sound system. From where you sit sipping your latte you have a perfect view of the old lifts, which once belonged to the State Theatre. Old display cases showcase curiosities and sparkling wine is served in old-fashioned champagne glasses from the 1920s. You could almost be forgiven for forgetting you are in Sydney. But there is art to be seen and once I’ve downed a latte it’s time to go.
Hot tip: if you’re walking around near the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) and someone tells you that you’re lucky and then asks if you would like to know why, the answer is, “No.” Always, “No.”
It’s hard to believe that between 1959 and 1971 the QVB was threatened with demolition. Thankfully, common sense prevailed and serious restoration commenced in 1982. Venturing down to the lower level I head towards Town Hall Station to jump on a train to Central. A word of advice for anyone travelling on public transport in Sydney, a small thing really… Please, keep to the left, unless overtaking.
When you hop out at Central you’ll want to head towards the South Concourse, not the North Concourse where I ended up, lost and disorientated. I put on a fake British accent so I could ask for directions without feeling like an idiot for getting lost in a train station in a city where I’ve lived my whole life. Luckily my two year stint living in the UK had linguistically prepared me for this day. Back on track, I exit at the South Concourse and turn right down the Central Station tunnel, which takes me to Railway Square. I head down George Street to Broadway and the delightfully ugly UTS building.
The walk down Broadway to Abercrombie Street features a hybrid of historical and modern architecture. The classic art deco lines of the Sutherland (now Bar Broadway) are juxtaposed against the growing (literally) high-rise comples that is Central Park. On the other side of is the UTS Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, a beacon of modern design. My brain is fairly bursting with culture and I haven’t even reached the galleries yet.
Turning left into Abercrombie Street, the first galleries I come across are MOP Projects and Galerie pompom which are situated within the same space. Anna McMahon is in MOP. James and Eleanor Avery occupy Galerie Pompom. McMahon’s show, On the turning point of becoming and returning, examines points of transition: past/future, together/separate, and incorporates expressions of love and despair. I confess I particularly enjoy the miniature screen that plays scenes from the 1961 film, Blue Hawaii, but I’d wager that this has more to do with my love of Elvis than with the art. James and Eleanor Avery’s Benny Bunny, 2016, dominates the space next to Rock Lobster, 2016, which looked like a penis on a plinth. At least I hope it is a penis on a plinth: otherwise this work says more about me than the artists.
I continue down Abercrombie Street until I come to Spot81. Their group exhibition, Cold Mountain: 100 Poems, contains some beautiful work inspired by the poets of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907AD). In particular Graham Kuo’s ink and acrylic on paper series and the intricate bronze wall sculptures by Jane Valentine and Sam Valenz are quite exceptional.
As I continue my walk further down Abercrombie Street I find The Commercial, located just on the other side of Cleveland Street. Here the work of Clare Milledge utilises hinterglasmalerei, a technique in which the artist applies oil paint onto the reverse side of glass and proceeds to brush on and then scrape away quantities of paint until the desired effect is achieved. What remains are vibrant works which reveal the process behind them; each scrape and layer of pigment is applied with intention and purpose. The depth of colour in Milledge’s work really needs to be seen to be appreciated.
Heading back the way I’d come, I decide to turn off Abercrombie and head down O’Connor Street, then right onto Buckland and right again onto Blackfriars. It was a bit of a random detour, but had I not taken the road-less-travelled I would never have seen the cyclist getting his groove on to some old-school Montel Jordon. When I eventually find ArtSHINE Gallery, it is more a communal workspace and artisan shop than a commercial gallery. The walls of all three levels are covered in artwork of all descriptions.
By now it’s 1pm. It’s hot and I am in desperate need of a drink. So I head back to Abercrombie Street and to Something for Jess, an ‘urban’ looking cafe next to MOP. Ordering an organic coke, which is served to me in a Mason jar, I’m feeling pretty hipster.
Between the art and the diverse architecture, I’m a little bit in love with Chippendale and like any good relationship, I can’t wait to see what the future holds.