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Art Guidance: Wilson Street Gallery

Slotted into the terraces of the street that bears its namesake, the Wilson Street Art Gallery is an oasis within the clamour of Newtown. Managed by Michelle Perry, an artist who specialises in printmaking, and directed by Janet Clayton, who is involved in several aspects of promoting art and culture in Sydney, the gallery’s displays entice wanderers and explorers alike. The interior space allows for large-scale works to dominate attention while the smaller pieces are highlighted with a deft touch.

Manager Michelle hesitates before commenting on the current art scene in Sydney, but expresses the difficulty in being an artist: “The Sydney Art scene is very quiet at the moment; there is a small pool of buyers or investors and it is much more difficult to exhibit in Sydney than say, New York, because there is limited scope in Sydney. The answer is not necessarily more galleries or more exposure for the artists – the public has to be interested.”

The gallery opened four years ago with the intention of encouraging “quality contemporary Australian art”. There has been a parade of renowned artists with a diverse selection of materials and practice, the majority of them local but some from Melbourne and a select few internationals. Michelle is committed to creating a cultural resource for the local and wider Sydney community and exploring a diverse range of artistic media. Discussing the role of the artist, gallery and public, Perry encourages individuals to support and become involved in both the viewing and the acquisition of Australian artwork. “The public, in turn, should support the arts by taking an interest – visiting galleries, looking at and engaging with the work and purchasing original works in preference to reproductions whenever possible.”

If Michelle and Janet are interested in an artist they will visit their studio (when possible) to see the actual works and may then follow up with an offer to exhibit or become part of the ‘stable’. There is no strict theme, but there is a focus on the abstract, and often works on paper. In a recent show, The Vinyl Archives, Manne Schulze and Ian Andrews dissected and reconfigured records to expand the inspiration of music in art and transform the ordinary into striking kaleidoscopic displays.

“Our focus is on the strength and integrity of the individual artists' work and creative journeys, and to building a close relationship with artists and the arts community by promoting and supporting our artists.”

She elaborates that the artist’s role is to experiment and explore, and the gallery’s is to nurture and promote the work to its best advantage and show and educate as many people as possible.

The current exhibition, Lifelines, encapsulates the ethos of the space, with expansive drawings depicting the intensity of modern city life, the conflict between the organic and mechanical, the contortions of bodies, buildings, pigeons and refuse in a jumble of visual potency. Charcoal and pencil intertwine with phosphorescent lines, and the blot and bleed of colour create an intricate density and gossamer beauty. Christopher Gentle has curated the show and complements the skills of the three participating artists: Muamer Cajic, Li Wenmin, Michael Esson.

Lifelines will be on until the Sunday (May 9) and will be followed by Bronwyn Bancroft’s Time, a mixture of decorated historical family photographs. The future program of artists includes Robyn Gordon, Anne Judell, Nola Jones, and Bill Brown.

Wilson Street Art Gallery is located on 30-34 Wilson Street in Newtown and is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 11am to 6pm.

words: Eleanor Griffin


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