A setting for sparrows

Rhonda Dredge

Artists of the back lanes of the CBD are like sparrows. When the first flickers of sunlight hit the cobblestones they are out and about making the most of their chances.

In Rankins Lane the sun’s rays hit the ground at about 11 am, a time that suits the habits of the late-riser. At number five, a door opens and a flight of stairs leads up to an artist’s garret. The entrance is still shrouded in the darkness of the night.

By 4 pm, the door closes, giving visitors just a small slice of gallery time on a Saturday to experience the romance of the setting. For the rest of the week, residents Max Maguire and Stefan Mau are working at their regular jobs.

Shop-houses are popular in Asia and they also provide a workable model for galleries, combining dwelling with hanging space without too much intrusion at open times.

“We found this place on Gumtree,” said Max, a musician from England. “It had been empty for 15 years.”

A faded sign on the front, Norris and Skelley, suggests the first-floor dwelling was once a factory for a wireless production company.

Good finds like this are more likely to occur in fiction. There’s a famous Russian story about a sparrow, which happily lives off crumbs but stops singing when put in a cage. The same could be said of artists who won’t roam far when free but cannot abide being trapped.

Both sparrows and artists are plump and plentiful in the back lanes where pop-up galleries are casual places for hanging out. The rustic dwelling, with a simple kitchen bench on the first level and a bed behind curtains on a mezzanine, is a perfect place for viewing small works of art.

“We didn’t want a white box,” Max said.

Paintings, photographs and works on paper hang on the kitchen wall and in the bedroom. Paintings by Adrienne Gaha riff off works by European masters in a pleasing way. Twenty photographic views by Tim Maguire of Mt Fuji from the Tokyo-Kyoto bullet train are clever and colourful.

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