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Features/Visual Art

Rising from the ashes

28 July 2020

Amidst the fallout of the pandemic shutdowns, two new art galleries are shaking up traditional ways of exhibiting art. Craig McKeough investigates.

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All over the world the COVID-19 shutdowns have been disastrous for the arts industry. Venues closed, opportunities and incomes trashed, livelihoods on the line.

Even as restrictions are lifted, the economic conditions are dicey across the community. It seems like a perilous time to be investing in a new venture to show and sell visual art.

Nonetheless, new art spaces are opening in Perth, with artist/operators doing things differently, defying the gloom and offering new opportunities for visual artists to bounce back.

In Melville, the long established Nyisztor Studio is branching out with a new venue, NEXTDOOR — literally next door — in an old house on Canning Highway where artist/gallery owner Ron Nyisztor is establishing a unique subscription space where patrons can see an ever-changing display at any time of the day or night.

And in Perth’s eastern suburbs, contemporary artist Gayle Mason is investing her hopes and dreams in Bellevue Artspace, reviving an empty retail space as a venue for workshops, classes and short-run exhibitions.

In both cases, the emphasis is on keeping costs low for participating artists. Neither venue will impose commissions on sales. Nyisztor will charge an annual fee of $70 for patrons to have access to the venue and the same fee for a limited number of artists to take part. Visitors will deal directly with the artist if they want to purchase works.

Mason aims to keep exhibition costs low — about $120 a day — with the duration of most shows limited to a single weekend to maintain a sense of dynamism about the space.

Both venues had been in the planning before the pandemic sidelined them, but they are back on track now as restrictions are eased.

Nyisztor is billing NEXTDOOR as a hybrid, experimental art-viewing space. ‘It’s something like a cross between a 24/7 gym and a flight lounge.’

Nyisztor is billing NEXTDOOR as a hybrid, experimental art-viewing space. “It’s something like a cross between a 24/7 gym and a flight lounge,” he says. “It’s possible visitors will find the space unoccupied, without the usual gallery attendant. In this way the venue offers a ‘speakeasy’ — a relaxed space for candid, lively discussions with your friends.

“Listen to opposing views, be enlightened by alternative views and stimulating ideas, choose your favourite sculpture, painting, photo, drawing or experimental artwork.”

Ron Nyisztor. Photo: Amanda Zuvela

Nyisztor hopes the $70 annual fee ($50 concession) will ensure that patrons are really attuned to exploring new art and will be receptive to the constantly changing display. Subscribers will be given a smartphone e-card which will give them access at any time. He sees potential for people to drop in after work, early on a Sunday or on their way home from dining out or seeing a show. The addition of coffee and tea making facilities will encourage people to linger and spend time interacting with the art.

Artists will be encouraged to change their work over quickly, possibly on a weekly basis, and nothing will be on display for longer than three weeks.

Immediately thoughts go to security in set-up like this. Surely someone needs to be on duty when a venue is open, just to keep an eye on people among valuable artworks. Is Nyisztor not concerned about theft or damage?

He prefers to rely on an honour system because the people who will be there are already engaged in the arts and have respect for the artists and venue.

“I think visitors and artists will have a sense of ownership of the space, that people will want to look after it and come back because there will always be something different on the walls,” Nyisztor says. “It’s a great opportunity to extend the art experience for both artist and collector, promoting contacts and new followings in a community that is working together to help each other succeed in new and positive ways.”

Mason has considerable experience as an artist, designer, teacher and mentor, and through Bellevue Artspace she is fulfilling a long-held desire to run her own community space for creating and displaying contemporary art. She is keen to support artists who are in the early stage of their career or who may not feel comfortable in the traditional gallery system.

Gayle Mason stands outside her new gallery. She wears a black beret, a black and crimson checked shirt and an apron, spattered in paint. Her arms are crossed, clasping three paint brushes to her chest. The wall behind her is painted with abstract designs, circles and stripes in pinks, oranges and greens.
Gayle Mason with detail from Leanne Bray’s mural.

“I would like to create a place for artists to learn more skills, with a diverse line-up of workshops and classes, and to also offer the gallery for artists, musicians, performers,” she says.

“Creatives are now having to market themselves more on social media and have limited galleries left to show their work, so I am offering this space to bridge that gap and give the control back to the artist and hopefully help put more dollars back into their pocket.”

An eye-catching mural, with a bold, colourful geometric design, created by noted public artist Leanne Bray now wraps around the old commercial building, dramatically altering the streetscape. Mason tapped into the sense of community among local artists by enlisting keen volunteers to help paint the mural.

She sees it as a step in the process of breathing new cultural life into the suburb, which is set to undergo something of a transformation with the new train assembly plant taking shape nearby, and a Bellevue train station on the books for a future stage of Metronet.

The venue is open for classes run by other teachers, and Mason is keen to hear from anyone wanting to offer workshops or ongoing classes.

Pictured top is Bellevue Artspace, featuring Leanne Bray’s mural. Photo: Craig McKeough

For more info about Bellevue Artspace head to www.bellevueartspace.com/

For more info about NEXTDOOR, head to www.nextdoorart.com.au

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Author —
Craig McKeough

Craig McKeough is a writer and visual artist, with a lifetime’s experience in journalism, covering everything from the arts to horse racing, politics and agriculture. Craig has always been drawn to the swing; an egalitarian, grounding piece of equipment where you can go as high and wild as you want, but you’ll always return to where you started.

Past Articles

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    Craig McKeough steps into a series of unsettling and chilling worlds in neighbouring exhibitions by Merrick Belyea and Brad Rimmer at Art Collective WA, and Jacobus Capone at Moore Contemporary.

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    Curated by André Lipscombe and Ric Spencer, ‘Panacea’ is an exhibition that offers the solace we all need right now, observes Craig McKeough.

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