The careers of many of Australia’s most celebrated artists have been launched in artist run spaces, in no short measure because these venues have not shied away from unconventional methods of display, or censored controversial content. Such places emerged in Australia in the early 1970s, with these cooperative organisations providing opportunities for artists to exhibit unrestricted by the mores of the traditional and commercial gallery sector.
Newcastle West is about to have the city’s newest art space, Four Point Gallery, run by a quartet of artists: Vicki Gerritsen, Kelly Barlin, Kelsey Fletcher and Kate Wilson. They are all Newcastle Art School students who have either graduated or are completing an Advanced Diploma of Fine Arts and were formerly involved in the Front Room Gallery at the Art School. When this gallery was moved students’ chance to have somewhere to exhibit their work was limited, but when a Renew Newcastle round of applications opened up, the Four Pointers saw it a way to run their own gallery. In essence the scheme gives individuals or groups a place to exhibit, work or be otherwise creative and that process transforms dead buildings into live places.
A deserted shop, owned by Hunter Water, was located and the gallery proposal was accepted. One of the conditions of this kind of urban renewal is that the new tenants leave the property better than when they found it. That wouldn’t prove to be very hard. The property, a former newsagency, had been empty for 10 years and thick dust carpeted the floor. The walls were covered in old shelving, every row of which had to be removed, along with the pegboards which had been nailed into the walls and the wooden frames which had been screwed in even tighter.
Vicki, Kelly, Kelsey and Kate washed walls, cleaned a decade’s worth of dust and grime, cement rendered, sealed doors and even filled big open cracks in an inside wall still gapping from the Newcastle earthquake. A Renew Newcastle sparky made the space electrically safe and a friendly local known only as ‘Uncle Andy’ gyprocked the walls and gave building advice. It has taken five weeks of work and umpteen hours for them just to transform the space back to bare walls.
In the back room of the old shop some strange things remained from its previous life; I was particularly taken with two red vinyl chairs which had names painted on the back, ‘Donna #2’ and ‘Chris G. 92’. The quirky chairs have the potential to be transformed into some kind of sculpture installation, although I did wonder whether Donna or Chris might knock on the gallery door one day and want their seats back.
The gallery will be exhibiting the work of Newcastle’s finest emerging visual artists with all the works for sale and exhibitions turning over every three weeks. Four Point Gallery opens on 14 September, so mark the date in your diary, everyone is welcome to share the bubbly and celebrate our newest contemporary fine art space. What makes it even better is that it’s a gallery with an edge, one which has been literally born out of the sweat of its creators. It’s almost as if it embodies Pablo Picasso’s sentiment – when asked about the purpose of art – he said it “washed the dust of daily life off our souls.”
Four Point Gallery 681b Hunter Street, Newcastle West. Expressions of interest are welcomed and the form to do this can be found on their Facebook page, Four Point Gallery. The gallery will be open Wednesday-Friday 10am-4.00pm, Saturday 10.00am – 2.00pm. Opening night is 14 September, 4.00pm-8.00pm, and all are welcome.
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