Around the galleries

Rhonda Dredge

Foot traffic has dropped and the galleries of North and West Melbourne are keen to get people back out on a Saturday afternoon visiting.

Some people can be scared off by the formal nature of galleries, but these are light-hearted places that give the artist a chance to shine.

Neil Shurgold has a studio in artist-run space Rubicon ARI on Queensberry St and he is waxing lyrical about one of the painters on show.

“Vatchi is unrepresented,” he said, “If I was going to pick one artist it would be Vatchi. He’s been doing painting for years. Look at his Instagram.”

Vatche Solakian is showing three paintings at the gallery, and they are worth seeing for their lively composition and irreverent content but he is just one of seven artists exploring the details of their practice in amusing ways.


The gallery scene in the area is known for its diversity and the City of Melbourne is backing it up with pop-up galleries in Errol St and environmental interventions.


Jessica Row has a great little graphic at Rubicon based on bark she has picked up around the traps. At one stage in its love affair with trees, the City of Melbourne gave them all unique email addresses, 70,000 of them, and they’ve had fan mail that Jessica has selected for her exhibition.

“Dear, Syzginm Lilly Pilly,” writes one admirer. “This is not an inquiry on your wellbeing, in case someone reading this is looking for issues they would need to fix. This is simply a letter to a tree, because I would like someone new to talk to, a stranger, and what better stranger to pick than a tree who lives across the world.”

The writer of this little ode is a teenager from America who hasn’t ever been to Melbourne.

At the time of going to press there were six galleries within walking distance of each other in North and West Melbourne, an arts circuit now rivalling that of Collingwood.


Bronze Tree Archeology by Jessica Row.


Closest to Rubicon ARI is Kings, an artist-run space that has just moved from the CBD to 69 Capel St. It was closed for cleaning when North West City News visited.

Furthest away, down on Adderley St, is West End Arts Space, run by Anna Prifti. She made the news last month by declaring her hand as a restorer of religious icons and a creative artist with poetic reconstructions of the craft.

She gave demonstrations on a Saturday afternoon, the traditional time for gallery hopping, although some say that the daily foot traffic hasn’t yet recovered from the horrors of the pandemic.

A pop-up gallery has also opened in Errol St in a shopfront owned by the City of Melbourne where a business called Sarah and Parul is selling commercial art and offering lessons to students over the holidays. Parul Sen is known for her colourful renditions of the exteriors of local cafes and has recently added Auction Rooms to the list.


Parul Sen offering drawing lessons in Errol St.


Best of all on the circuit was GallerySmith where artist Lisa Sewards was holding the fort while staff were away at the Sydney Art Fair. One small etching depicts her grandmother leaving Ukraine during the Second World War.

“She didn’t have a choice. Their house was destroyed so they left,” she said. “They walked to Germany. All of the family left Belarus and Ukraine so there’s no connection. Mum has blocked out her childhood. She was three (when they left) and in a camp for five years.”

She said that artists draw on their past. The trope of crossing the sea and leaving on a journey is at the heart of her show Driftwood, with the small etchings leading to larger abstract works.

“The abstract is satisfying, letting go of the figurative,” she said. “People don’t know how long it takes to do a project.”

The proof is in the visuals, and these can only be fully appreciated by visiting the galleries. “Artists spend a lot of time in the studio and it’s nice to engage and get an understanding of how people interpret your work.”

The City of Melbourne’s Creative Melbourne portfolio lead Cr Jamal Hakim encouraged art lovers to explore and support local galleries in North and West Melbourne.

“North and West Melbourne have always been synonymous with housing many residents that work in the creative sector,” Cr Hakim said.

“And it’s no surprise these neighbourhoods are home to a number of artist-run and commercial art spaces."   

“These are unique, one-of-a-kind galleries – and we encourage art lovers and those with a curious mind to explore all that our great city has to offer.” 

On Saturday, September 16, Lisa will be giving an artist’s talk at GallerySmith.


Main captions: Lisa Sewards with an etching of her grandmother, and The Taking of Christ after Carravagio by Vatche Solakian.

John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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