Upon arrival at Flinders Street Station in Melbourne by train, rather than heading for the main exit, and out into the heaving masses at the intersection of Flinders and Swanston Streets, go underground, by following the signs to Degraves Street, in the middle of each of the platforms.
Here you will find Campbell Arcade, a much overlooked subterranean passageway containing an eclectic little group of stores, including a couple of dress shops, a handcrafted jewellery and knick-knack shop, a traditional barber’s shop, and a funky little takeaway coffee kiosk.
Past this assemblange of shops lies The Dirty Dozen, a gallery space comprising a dozen glass cabinets. This space is also a thoroughfare to Degraves Street, the renowned street of cafes, and is a great mix of everyday urban living and creativity. The Dirty Dozen is part of the Creative Spaces program to revitalise and regenerate creative spaces in the city of Melbourne, and expressions of interest are taken from artists and creatives who wish to exhibit. Each exhibition is on display for approximately two months.
I frequent Campbell Arcade numerous times each week, on my way from the station into the city, and then on my way back to the train again. The ever-changing Dirty Dozen program brightens each of these days, whether I am passing through at speed, when I am running behind and rushing to an appointment, or whether I am ambling back home, with time to stop and contemplate each artwork.
The first exhibition for 2017 is Guides To Help You. Curated by Tracy Sarroff, whose work also features in the display, this is an exhibition of artworks created with light, whether neon, fluorescent or LED. Each of the 12 cabinets displays works by Aly Indermuhle, Brendan Van Hek, Eugenia Raskopoulos, Kristin McIver, Marc Freeman or Tracy Sarroff.
Each work of art stands alone behind the glass, inviting individual inspection and reflection. However, each piece also stands together as part of the collection, a beautiful glowing display showcasing ethereal, otherworldly colourings of luminescent forms.
Tracy Sarroff is a Melbourne-based artist as well as curator of the exhibition, and has exhibited widely in both Australia and the United Kingdom. Her work draws inspiration from ecology, art, science fiction and science fact. Her works in Guides To Help You are stunning, reminiscent of ethereal marine life, neon algae floating weightlessly in space, and are some of my favourites in the exhibition. According to the artist, the sculptures in the exhibition reference a proliferation of growth, bioluminescence and echoes of a 1960s space-age era, in a colour-saturated modernist aesthetic.
Aly Indermuhle is another personal favourite in the exhibition, and has three works of art on display. In a career spanning more than twenty years she has worked in many different areas of film and television production, notably in the creation and operation of the United States Air Force’s first fully functional animation studio. In recent times Indermuhle has chosen to focus on the creation of light art installations, both large-scale publicly displayed works as seen in VIVID Sydney 2016 and the Melbourne Open 2017, and smaller more intimate works for the private sphere.
Each of Indermuhle’s works on display are breathtakingly beautiful, and for me are reminiscent of childhood, of a little girl’s birthday party, of pretty coloured ribbons and of a day at the funfair. The artist’s inspiration for these works is driven by the experience of the viewer, as she attempts to connect on a human level through the language of emotion and memory. I would be most interested to hear how other viewers see the works, and what memories and emotions come up for them.
Brendan Van Hek, an artist originating from Perth, works across a variety of artistic mediums, utilising materials such as neon, mirror, glass and metal. Echoing minimalism and abstraction within his work, he focusses on creating art involving personal history, fiction and cultural politics.
At first glance, the two works of art by Van Hek seem very minimal compared to some of the others on display, but upon closer inspection begin to revel hidden depths. The perfectly placed neon within An Isolated Moment invites the viewer to ask questions, to create a narrative, to reminisce, and like Sarroff’s work, harks back to the kitsch of the 1960s. The sharp, clean lines of A Blue Moment also invite the creation of a narrative, and is a particularly aesthetically pleasing work.
Veronica Caven Aldous’ work is the first or last of the exhibition, depending on one’s entrance to the display. Aldous has a great interest in creating playful and ambiguous contemporary metaphors of light, finding inspiration in post-minimalism, spatial interventions, philosophy and mediation.
Light In Space consists of two LED programmed light boxes, which gradually change colours, from blue to green, from purple to orange. The different tints and hues are spectacular, and cast an iridescent glow over the audience. It is fitting both as a place to start or conclude viewing the exhibition, as she invites the audience to look inside the work’s seemingly infinite space, and to consider their own spatial situation.
Guides To Help You is most definitely worth a visit, for its bright and illuminating introduction to 2017. Having only twelve cabinets of work, this is a bite-sized exhibition that can be viewed in a relatively short time, although further contemplation is very much recommended.
There are numerous entrances and exits to Flinders Street Station, one of the main transport hubs of Melbourne, but I urge you to seek out Campbell Arcade and the Degraves Street exit on a regular basis, for a small cultural sojourn out of your day. It is a great introduction to the buzzing atmosphere of Degraves Street, with its vibrant array of cafes and restaurants.
Belinda McDowall, Deputy Editor & Special Features, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017
Guides To Help You
Degraves Street Subway,
14 February – 22 April 2017
Mon – Fri 7am – 7pm Sat 10am – 5pm