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A Place Where We Can All Be Artists: Monster Children Gallery

Down a little corner and up a little stairwell lies a little room that could have easily remained insignificant were it not for the ideas of a few boys who grew up surfing and creating on the Northern Beaches. And like all cases, the old saying that ideas without action are useless speaks the truth, because today it is difficult to imagine Sydney without it – particularly if you’re young, unusual and drawn to cans of spray paint for no particular reason. It’s called Monster Children. Ever heard of it?

Monster Children Gallery has become somewhat of an altar for the underground art zealots to fall a little bit more in love with art and uncover the meaning of their imagination. It seems that by an unintentional landslide, the chosen pieces invite the viewers to stare, be mesemerised and perhaps question the creativity they themselves are capable of. After all, within each and every one of us a little creative can be found, or so claims gallery curator Joseph Allen Shea.

“It’s a little punk, a little DIY – we want the gallery to exude the message that anyone can create art,” he says.
“We don’t deal with super expensive art works, and everything is by and large outside the established fine art world. They’re self-taught and come from cultures outside of art school, such as graffiti, commercial work, comics, and signwriting.”

“They didn’t take the trodden path, and that’s exactly when interesting things happen.”

Sister Corita

For those of you not in Sydney, you may know Monster Children more by its aesthetically orgasmic print layout and indulgence in varying GSM with matte or gloss finish. Founded in 2002 by “Chris and Campbell,” to put it simply, it started off as a passion project which, conveniently, was a perfect fit for the overarching gap in the market. As time went on, the art content continued to rise in quality until it simply couldn’t be satisfied existing solely on the pages. And so three and a bit years ago, the creators turned them 3D, enabling Monster Children to live both on the coffee table and through people’s footsteps. Enter childhood friend Joseph, who had been the magazine’s London correspondent from Issue no. 1. He returned from his adventures and was appointed to look after the gallery.


“It was pretty easy to take that magazine culture and put it on the wall, to tell you the truth,” he says.
“I had the background knowledge already, so I didn’t have to learn about art or artists.”

“When you are passionate about something, you make it work.”

When the building came up, the boys were lucky enough to be friends with the neighbours, and knew it was the perfect time to open the space they had been conjuring. They slapped some new floors on and added dry wall to the concrete and brick edifice so as to enable artists to hang their work on a malleable space. The exhibitors are also able to paint, drill or hang their work from the ceiling if they are so inclined. It is this no-rules attitude which has turned the walls into an almost cryptogram written in the language of cool, a type of art that is at times so unrefined it becomes ironically irresistible.

Edward Woodley

“We have a different approach with our artists in that we don’t represent them in the traditional sense… but I am just so totally interested in them and want to try and help build their career any way I can,” says Joseph.

Take Stefan Marx, for example. Joseph met the artist when he was in Europe and was so into his work, he wanted to bring it over to Australia – so he did. He held an exhibition of his work in the gallery, complete with a skateboard ramp running through the middle, and then toured him to Melbourne.
Joseph says the gallery may look into representing artists in the future, when the underground art movement explodes like it has in Europe.

Stefan Marx

“Everyone with passion for this type of art is young but is growing and getting more powerful in the industry, and so the artists are getting curated into larger museums – we’re all working together,” he says.
“I do believe the gallery will become more prominent once people see the value of the work on a greater scale.”

As for now, Joseph says the main thing he looks for in prospective artists’ work is ingenuity.

“It’s always exciting when a work is unique and you can pick out the artist from 20 yards away,” he says,
“But in saying that, authenticity is more important than originality. Artists just need to be about it – if they can make it theirs, then it’s original. Never be a slave to changing trends.”

Steve Powers

And it is Joseph’s hope that such innovation will spark an imaginative lightning through us all.

“We hope the gallery is inspiring and gives an affirmation to people that they have the power to create art themselves – just like how you can pick up a guitar without any knowledge,” he says.

“You are creative if you want to be. A lot of people are not told they are artists, but everyone has it inside of them.”

Hey kids! Guess what? You can try and procure an artistic revelation of your own tonight for the Trials exhibition, featuring Sydney art collective We Buy Your Kids. The spiel reads like this:

Renowned Sydney based illustrators WEBUYYOURKIDS will present a much anticipated show at Monster Children Gallery in October. Titled ‘Trials’, the exhibition explores the duo’s fascination with witchcraft, bad luck, ill health, black cats and cheaply printed posters, flyers and magazines.

Themes of misinterpretation, bad judgement and injustice emerge through a series of screenprints, either in stark black and white or slabs of flat bright colour. There is a heavy nod to the pulp magazines, comics and schlock movie posters of the 1970s and the printing processes utilised in their mass execution.

WEBUYYOURKIDS is Biddy Maroney and Sonny Day, who began working together in 2005 illustrating gig posters. Since then they have worked mainly in the music industry producing tour art for such bands as Deerhunter, Dappled Cities, Blonde Redhead and Les Savy Fav. They have made album art work for Paul Dempsey, The Holy Soul and Youth Group and video clips for Washington and Belles Will Ring.

6pm. 20 Burton Street, Darlinghurst. See you there.

words: Seema Duggal


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