Port Melbourne Is Closed blurred background
Port Melbourne Is Closed

Port Melbourne Is Closed

English 15 minutes 21

"Port Melbourne Is Closed" - Josh Callaghan
A beloved and regular family excursion in my childhood was to drive from our home in Eltham down to St Kilda where we’d pick up some fish and chips and eat them down by the marina where my siblings and I would play of the wharf. More times than not our next stop would be the big spiral slippery slide that once stood in a park along beach road. This was always my highlight. On the nights when my parents decided that the chill night air was too much for our fledgling lungs, mum would answer my requests to go to the “big slide” with “ sorry darling, Port Melbourne is CLOSED.” Though disappointed, this explanation was enough to satisfy my baby brain.
On moving to Port Melbourne as an adult, the humour of mum’s emphatic white lie often struck me. The image I had was of great iron gates closing off all the entrances into the suburb, all lights switched off. No people in the streets. It was not long before this iconic sentence of my childhood took on new meaning. One only has to stroll down Bay Street from one end to the other to notice the alarming amount of empty shop fronts in the once thriving strip. Unaffordable rents, the growing popularity of online shopping and now the insidious Covid-19 virus has resulted in a retail precinct that is a shadow of its former self.
“Port Melbourne is closed” seems a fitting title for my exhibition, paying tribute to both my mum’s creative parenting and the sad state of the local shopping strip.
So much of my work starts life in a café with coffee, sketchbook and pen.
There is something so creatively stimulating about this environment; it makes my mind swim with possibilities.
I let the pen run where it wants to go. Marks become lines; the lines begin to take a form – whatever feels right in that moment. Sometimes the form is recognisable, a building or a wrinkled face. Sometimes the building grows legs; sometimes the face grows into a building. It’s a beautiful experience to feel bounded by nothing within this new reality, to explore what can happen when ink meets paper.
I am inspired by architecture both good and bad. The majesty of great buildings and the misery of terrible ones. My drawings often reference or are guided by popular culture, the films and cartoons I grew up on, the strange visions of dreams and nightmares and the mundane doings of the man in the street. Old city maps, seedy urban houses, factories and decaying football stadiums creatively seduce me. I seem often to instinctively steer towards creating images where cute and cozy walk hand in hand with the unsettling and unsound.
I began my relationship with Gasworks through feeling a need to involve myself more in the arts community. A chance meeting with Visual Arts Manager, Tracey McIrvine in the park one afternoon lead to me interning during exhibition installs for several months, before being employed as a casual Visual Arts Tech, installing art works, liaising with artists and learning about gallery curating from Tracey and her assistant Mary Hughes.
I’ve met so many friendly, creative and co-operative people through Gasworks. It has become a special place to me.
I had my first panic attack in 1992, aged 9. Anxiety and depression have been with me in some form ever since. Sometimes enveloping me like a burning blanket, other times lingering in the backround just waiting for its chance to grab at me.
Whilst the majority of my art carries a sense of humour and whimsy about it, so too is it laced with the ever-present fear, self-doubt and cynicism that mental illness has brought out in my life. The ability to escape into my sketchbook has no doubt provided a source of calm and healing for me over the years.
I dedicate this art exhibition to my beautiful partner Marian who suffers her self from debilitating anxiety, depression and OCD.
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