Opening Exhibition, Artemisia Gallery Space

One quirk of Melbourne is that there’s a distinct north/south of the Yarra (River) mentality  people living to the north of it rarely venture south, and vice versa. However, two alumni of the north’s SOL Gallery have jumped that divide and founded their own independent art gallery in the south.

Artemisia Gallery Space is in Windsor, just a couple of blocks east of Chapel street (formerly Alternating Current Art Space, which closed last year).

The two founders are visual artist, sculptor and photographer Ash Forbes and multimedia artist and photographer Isabella Imperatore, the latter of whom won first prize in Brunswick Street Gallery’s prestigious 50 Squared competition last year. Together, if their debut show is any indication, they’ve given Melbourne a formidable new art venue (which is named after the Italian artist Artemisia Gentileschi, partly in a homage to Imperatore’s Italian heritage).  

Their artistic choices are impressive as soon as you enter  to your right sits a gloriously idiosyncratic lamp, composed of two jewellery-fondling, glove-covered hands forming a circle around a naked bulb. It’s certainly an effectively striking thing to have as an intro, but the artist’s name is Sun, who, with an un-Googleable name like that, presumably doesn’t want to be found (I bought a piece many years ago from a Japanese artist who called herself “Happy”; I’ve never found her since). 

Overlooking the lamp are two works by the astounding Iranian-Australian painter Samira Khadivizand. Her artworks weave a deliciously abstract world, one which appears to obey its own set of rules, rules on which her biography on the Victorian Artists Society website sheds some light. She was born with a rare eye irregularity, and so her blurred version of the world has shaped her artistic style, creating a visual realm where objects have no borders, which creates a “fluidity” while depicting time and movement.

The resulting works have the soft hues of 1920s/30s paintings of jazz artists and the character of classic noir paintings, but when they’re in Khadivizand’s world, they play by her rules, resulting in what often seems like a new visual lexicon – one for which only she has the dictionary.

From Khadivizand’s intriguing, confident and rewarding works, the gallery opens out into its main room, with a central table and a collection of peripheral plinths. This room, akin to Off The Kerb gallery’s recent exhibition, is a feast for the senses visually, creatively, spiritually. 

There are too many highlights to mention (there are 88 works on sale here), especially because of the subjective nature of art. For instance, some viewers may be drawn to the geometric playfulness of DIDS’ sculptures, which sit in the centre of the room; others may be attracted to Leah Torly’s fascination with anthropomorphised bunnies; others still may well cite Thang Do’s mini towers of coloured board and perfume (yes, apparently, perfume) as their favourites.

For this reviewer, however, the highlights of the room are the six works by Scarlette Baccini and Camilla Grace, clocking in at three works apiece. Baccini’s work, which was understandably included in surrealist art gallery Beinart earlier this year, is a flamboyantly symbolic universe of body parts, internal and external – a place where life as a biological organism is visually discussed. According to her website, the artist believes that ‘art and science are sister disciplines’, and her work certainly shows this. 

Artwork by Samira Khadivizand. Photo: Supplied.

Grace’s work, however, is decidedly different. Her works here are organic landscapes of caked-on layers – diptychs and triptychs exploring colour, shape and texture, and different ways they can be presented, created and related to each other. As her bio on Gallery247 explains, her “sculptural paintings” create a visual dialogue where the ‘organic, the textured and the digital coexist and interact’. 

Dozens of other treasures litter this show, for instance Neal Fitzgerald’s mosaic lobster, Alia Borodina’s Dali-esque landscape The Game of Life and three colourful paroxysms of weird by Eddy Burger, depicting a menagerie of humans, animals, aliens, clowns and unidentifiable etcetera. Burger is a local artist whose creative output redefines the word prolific he is involved in visual art, photography, theatre, spoken word, novels, zine publication, poetry and singing, often all in the same week. How he manages to do this is just as enigmatic as the man himself. 

Read: Exhibition review: Nina Sanadze, The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

All in all, it’s a very impressive opening collection of works dozens of genres, mediums and subjects are represented, prices range from wonderfully affordable to appropriately priced to reflect the artist’s work, and the curators openly embrace artists from any background, culture, sexual orientation or religion. The land south of the Yarra just became creatively richer. 

Artemisia Gallery Space Opening Exhibition will be on open until 28 April 2024.

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