The New Guard

The most interesting galleries are as much a reflection of their founders’ creative visions as they are a vehicle for spurring new directions in contemporary art. VAULT swung by four next-generation art spaces determined to contribute to their city’s art scenes – on their own terms.

written by Neha Kale FEB 2019



Conor O’Shea thinks that there are few creative motivations quite as powerful as friendship. The artist and self-described facilitator says that he’s always been obsessed with creating a community of positive people in the art world. At Sydney, an intimate space that unfolds in the living room of his ground-floor Potts Point apartment, O’Shea’s connections with a roster of international artists and collaborators are the basis for thoughtful exhibitions that revolve around aesthetic camaraderie and the exchange of ideas.

“Sydney is pretty real, there are no smoke and mirrors, but I think viewing the work in a domestic environment makes it more human – every time someone comes in, they stay for at least an hour,” laughs O’Shea, who founded Sydney back in 2016. “I fund the gallery through my part-time jobs; I work most nights and the reality of what I do is pretty hard, same as anyone in Sydney. But I’ve learned so much from the generosity of the artists who present work with me, many of whom I consider to be on the world’s stage.”

Sydney largely focuses on rising international artists. O’Shea has previously shown works by New York-based Travess Smalley, and London’s Viktor Timofeev, along with Australian art stars such as Hany Armanious. But, here, exhibitions feel personal, even slightly diaristic – despite an aesthetic rigour and strong conceptual bent. Nice American Guy, a December 2018 show by Los Angeles poet and painter Keith J. Varadi, draws on everyday objects – coffee cups from a Greek deli, a smashed iPhone submerged in a fishbowl – to explore notions of home and the way gentrification is reshaping the artist’s neighbourhood. Flight 714 to Sydney saw Moscow-born Marina Pinsky present continuous ink drawings made on a scroll during a two-day plane trip to Australia.

O’Shea is also fascinated by the circulation of images. It’s part of a wider interest in the gallery as a space that’s portable and fragile, prone to many interpretations.

“The artist Thomas Jeppe recently organised an exhibition where I presented Sydney’s entire online archive at a gallery called Doc in Paris,” smiles O’Shea, who will pair work by legendary Australian sculptor Norma Redpath alongside Martyn Reynolds in early 2019. “Sydney is a presentation of my energy and all my friends’ energy. There’s this idea that the gallery can be in different places at the same time.”

Norma Redpath & Martyn Reynolds shows at Sydney from February 9 to March 9, 2019.

Installation view
Rich and Famous Magazine, Good and Cheap Translators
Please talk, please make contact, 2018
Sydney, Sydney
Work: Georgie Nettell




Adam Stone thinks that necessity is the mother of invention. When Stone, an artist whose work charts ideas around masculinity and mythology, graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts back in 2013, he was unsure about where he would exhibit in Melbourne. Three years later he opened LON Gallery within a studio complex in Collingwood’s Easey Street. He was inspired by the likes of Mike Egan’s Ramiken Crucible, a lo-fi New York City art space that shows emerging artists whose work exists outside the traditional gallery system.

“I thought that I could create a gallery that has the ethos of an artist-run space but actively tries to cultivate opportunities for artists by introducing them to curators and selling work,” explains Stone, who originally co-founded LON with fellow VCA graduate Elle Ross. “LON is based in an underutilised space that includes visual artists and merchandisers and it’s a lot cheaper than a high-street shopfront. It still takes a lot of logistic and emotional energy – at one point I had three part-time jobs! But that’s the magic recipe that enables LON to work.”

Initially, LON championed up-and-coming young artists. Early exhibitions included playful sculptures from Sean Peoples and Technicolor paintings by Fergus Binns along with Window Shopper, a 2017 presentation of works by Grant Nimmo and Casey Jeffery in Melbourne’s Campbell Arcade. Stone lights up as he speaks about this project, which he ranks among the closest manifestations of LON’s vision. But in 2019, LON is embarking on a new chapter – one that demands a bigger commitment on his part.

“This year, I will start representing a small group of artists, who are still emerging but have already taken a few steps within their career, as I realised that I could do a better job at providing opportunities,” smiles Stone, who says that working with first-time, young collectors is among the highlights of his work at LON. He plans to show Dord Burrough, Lauren Dunn and Caleb Shea over the next few months. “At the moment there is a real renewed interest in contemporary art in mainstream culture. I hope that ARIs and major commercial galleries can introduce audiences to what’s happening at the local level,” he says. “I think the 2019 program will solidify what the gallery is because it’s taken me nearly three
years to work it out!”

Dord Burrough shows at LON Gallery from February 13 to March 9, 2019.


Installation view
Soft Gestures
LON Gallery, Melbourne
Photo: Adam Stone





Rebecca Ross thinks that appearances can be deceiving. Ross, an artist and academic, has always known that the Gold Coast, an idyllic part of Australia that’s more synonymous with sun and surf than a serious art scene, was home to a strong visual culture – one shaped by its geography, sense of transience and nostalgia-heavy built environment. She puts this front and centre at Miami art space The Walls.

“The Gold Coast is such a rich environment – there is so much happening architecturally and culturally and there are so many people who have memories and histories here,” offers Ross, who founded The Walls in 2013 and says that Sunscreening, an exhibition of video art, a screening of Soda_Jerk’s Terra Nullius to coincide with Australia Day and the yearly group show Surf Salon are among the highlights of 2019. “In a sense, The Walls was born out of necessity. I had come back from residency in Italy and took up a studio in Miami. I wanted to meet other contemporary artists so decided to start the space by programming the two walls outside the studio. Then, I received a grant from Arts Queensland and had the opportunity to take on a larger space. Everything aligned.”

Since then, The Walls has helped galvanise the Gold Coast’s creative community through exhibitions that are playful and rigorous. Here, the programming, as Ross puts it, tends to “pose more questions than answers about what this place is.” To date, the gallery has shown a roster of local and interstate artists including Cherie Noble and Henry Jock Walker, whose offbeat practice mines the connections between surfing, painting and performance. It also runs Miami/Miami, an international exchange with Obsolete Media, an studio from Miami, Florida that explores the cities’ shared coastal fantasies.

Not that Ross is averse to these.

“It’s not unusual for me to for me to paddle out on my surfboard and sit out in the waves talking about contemporary art,” she grins. “We are operating the kind of space that no-one has before, and we can do it any way we like.”

Surf Salon is curated by Byron Coathup, Rebecca Ross and Henry Jock Walker and will run from March 29 to April 28, 2019.


Installation view
Pipedream Fruit and Veg, 2018
The Walls, Gold Coast
Photo: Chris Bennie

Installation view
Nomi And Nali (The Night Watch), 2018
The Walls, Gold Coast
Curated by Rebecca Ross for Festival 2018, Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Photo: Chris Bennie




Bon Marche Arcade, a 19th-century Federation building on Perth’s Barrack Street, is better known for its revolving series of offices and shopfronts than it is as a home for contemporary art. But Cool Change Contemporary, a multi-venue art space that occupies a series of rooms on the first floor, is intent on rewriting this history. It also hopes to nurture the borderless creativity and DIY ethos that tends to thrive in the West Australian capital.

“Perth is a hotbed of people who are driven and want to make their own opportunities because it’s not like you can graduate from VCA and exhibit straight away – it’s more like, ‘What kind of space can I make so I can show my own work?’” laughs Emma Buswell, who established Cool Change Contemporary in May 2018, along with Jess Boyce, Grace Connors, Miranda Johnson, Melissa McGrath, Shoshana Rosenberg and Matthew Siddall, a group of artists associated with Perth’s former MOANA Project Space. “We really want to push experimental arts practices that incorporate multiple focuses: dance, performing art, visual art, spoken word. We also wanted to create a gallery that was sustainable and give Perth a multi-venue space. So instead of having 12 shows, you have 27 or 30 in a year.”

Cool Change Contemporary sparks dialogue between interstate and West Australian artists. Last year, the space hosted concurrent shows from Melbourne artists Rebecca McCauley and Aaron Claringbold, an experimental documentary on climate change by Sydney-based Tessa Rex, and Land Sale, a study of Perth’s changing topography from local artists Mei Swan Lim and Matt Aitken. It also aims to break down boundaries between disciplines and draw a wider audience. Next year, it’s planning to host a zine fair. The space is also home to an experimental music series such as Outcome Unknown.

“[Our audience] is everyone – artists and their parents and their dogs and their brothers and sisters and families and friends,” she says. “Our first show, 270 people attended, it was crazy! We thought it was just going to be the first, but it’s kept going. And we want to stick around for a while.”

Cool Change Contemporary will host solo exhibitions by Dalton Stewart,
Guy Louden, Stephen Armitstead and Devon Ward from Feb 1 to 23, 2019.


Installation view
World Showcase
Adventure, 2018
Cool Change
Contemporary, Perth
Photo: Danielle Fusco


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