Incinerator Gallery: cultural gem of the west

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[Sculpture by Antonia Goodfellow] 

One of my favourite places in Melbourne, undiscovered by many, is the Incinerator Arts Complex – an exciting and progressive gallery nestled on Holmes Rd in Moonee Ponds. The stylish 1930s structure is almost hidden within a tiny bush-land setting of large gums and pepper trees, yet the fabulous, original iron gates suggest something intriguing within and you’d be a fool not to satisfy your curiosity and take a peek inside.

Built in 1929 – 30, conceived by Walter Burley and Marion Griffin and designed by architect Eric Nicholls, it is a building of historical significance as it is one of few remaining incinerators in the Melbourne district. The structure, once used to dispose of waste in the immediate area, is beautiful: the raw materials used to construct the building – wood, steel, concrete and brick – create a simple and tactile canvas for the wonderful works exhibited there. The soaring ceilings and huge industrial steel windows at the gallery’s entrance, complemented by additional modern offices, are inspiring and the perfect foyer for the promise of great art within. I particularly like this area of the gallery because it displays the original furnace where the waste used to be incinerated. And there’s a wonderful mezzanine and staircase, which leads you upstairs to the fabulous works by world-acclaimed artists.

Every year, the team at the Incinerator create a program that is arresting, diverse and beautiful. And they are always keen to promote emerging artists with events such as Artecycle – a premier art award that invites artists to submit works based on the themes of sustainability and environmentalism. The prize for this exhibition is $14000 and it has attracted much attention and interest in the art world. Only the most accomplished and challenging works are chosen and the experience of viewing it is nothing short of amazing! The award has been renamed the Incinerator Art Award for 2014.

Currently on show is Wunderkammer by Rod McRae – masterful taxidermy meets surrealism with both thought-provoking and humorous themes. Wunderkammer is a term used to describe a cupboard of curiosities, often of the natural world (hence the taxidermy) displayed with theatricality. The exhibition ‘explores the themes of conservation, hunting culture, biodiversity, stewardship, colonization, climate change and critiques our relationship with the natural world’ (as described on the Incinerator web page). I was fortunate to view the exhibition during set-up and was quite mesmerized by the gorgeous array of exotic animals including zebra heads, a polar bear, and leather-bound kangaroos. It was both disturbing and fascinating. Opening night for Wunderkammer is Friday April 11, 6 – 8pm, with free drinks and snacks. There is also a children’s workshop and curator talk linked to this exhibition.

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[Sculpture by Rod McRae]

Opening nights are always well attended and a fabulous introduction to a revered artist. Or you can attend one of the public programs, where curator Richard Ennis talks about their work. You can follow the Incinerator Gallery Facebook page or the website to find out more. For regular updates, don’t forget to subscribe.

There are also classes at the complex, including workshops for children that allow young people to explore the current exhibition with a short tour and condensed art history lecture (of sorts – in entertaining and simple terms). The 2 hour workshops allow 1 ½ hours for a totally fun and engaging activity with an emphasis on nurturing the individual child’s creativity and resourcefulness. The adult classes are quite structured and offer expert advice on technique and style.

For more information about this exciting art space visit:

http://www.incineratorgallery.com.au

https://www.facebook.com/IncineratorGallery