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Coming Home to Ma: ma. gallery

On a quiet residential street smack in the middle of Chippendale lies a little gallery that you just might miss if you so much as blink. Once you enter through the building’s heavy doors and trawl up its creaky stairs, you’ll come across a rather large space that is packed to the brim with works from a candy-store assortment of artists. It is called ma. gallery and it exists because two girls decided to rent a place where they could regularly hold exhibitions, for no other reason than to keep their passion for the art world alive. Unassuming by design, this is a place that leaves commercialism well and truly on the main street, and is steadfastly not-for-profit (and not-for-wankers). Directors Kee Kee and Solo chat to Side Street, Sydney about this little gallery that they hold so close to their hearts.

When did the gallery open and by whom?
The gallery opened in April 2009 by Kee Kee and Solo, both practicing artists/BFFs.

What prompted you to open a gallery?
We were both jobless and bored and had been wanting to create something together… something big, something drastic and something expensive… for a long time. The idea first originated when we were homeless in England together, so when we were both homeless in Sydney, we decided to get off our asses and do something.

Tell me a little about the space. How was it designed? What were you inspired by? What kind of message did you want it to exude?

The space is BIG. It’s designed for art and music. We are inspired by the 924 Gilman Project and spaces run by the people, for the people. We always want to be an accessible space, both financially and personally, and to separate the words ‘pretentious’ and ‘gallery’.

Why the name?

It’s our nickname for one another – we have been calling each other ma/mum/mummy/mother since we were 15 (Kee Kee has deep-seeded mother issues).

What are some of the most successful shows that have been held here?

Our sold out show in May by international tattoo artist DOTT KOTT was one of our favourites, along with our fashion shows which showcase up and coming designers . They are always a good time. ‘27 Artists, 27 Dick Street, 27 May’ was also so much fun to prepare and in March of this year we are trying to outdo ourselves with 33 artists – ‘3.3.10’ - which we are still taking applications for.

How do you support and mentor artists?

By keeping our space financially accessible and creating a hub, we hope to open networks within the artistic community.

What is your philosophy behind promoting the Australian art scene?

It has to be free, because what practicing artist has money? So there’s Facebook, which is free, accessible and allows direct contact to artists. Word of mouth keeps our doors open and opens more doors for us, like opportunities to be featured in write ups.

What do you look for in your artists?

We have a "holy shit" factor! Just the other day when we were hanging the ‘pffftt..’ show, Steven Nuttall walked in with his crazy mouse head sculpture and Kee Kee yelled, "woah holy shit!" Then there was that time when John Hynd showed Solo his devil vagina eating babies and she lost her holy shit all over the place. But in saying that, it doesn't have to be the art that makes us tingle. We've met many artists and designers that have the holy shit factor in their personality. One to check out is Christina Bou – she'll holy shit you into getting drunk and talking about boys.

What events do you have coming up?

There's ‘Pop ma. Cherry’ coming up on February 17th. It’s a Valentine’s exhibition.
ma.rkets are on the 24th of Feb.
Skipping over to March, we have got 33 artists in ‘Afternoon Tease’, a burlesque mad hatter’s afternoon tea party run by the beautiful Ms Brianna Bluebell. Scattered amongst those dates are surprise pop up shows, so you can stay tuned to our Facebook for updates.

What do you want the public to know about your space?
You can always come home to ma.

Kee Kee & Solo

ma. gallery is located at 27 Dick Street, Chippendale.

words: Seema Duggal


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