Celestial calling for CBD foyer

By Rhonda Dredge

As the city fills, every little corner is laden with signs.

In the past, letters came addressed to particular tenants.

Their contents were strictly protected from prying eyes.

Now artists are leaving hints in their place that personal messages are a thing of the past.

At 141-143 Flinders Lane, seekers of knowledge are invited to enter through a tiled art deco doorway suggestive of an Egyptian tomb.

From there, climb seven steps and look to the right where you will find nineteen timber cabinets – each with its own key and window – in the latest display space for enigmatic narratives.

You could be forgiven for missing Mailbox Art Space. It’s as if, in adjusting to the pressure of urban life, someone has left a secret formula for passage through the crowded city.

Opening night has passed for this exhibition and you didn’t get an invite. Artists’ websites provide the only links. That’s life in the digital age! It’s full of exclamation marks, textual mechanisms for coping with exclusion.

One helpful message remains from the curator, Mitchel Brannan. The message is printed on a folded A4 sheet and you take it.  You discover that the exhibition is really a physical manifestation of a celestial system he has invented.

You ask: How useful can a celestial system be for a city dweller?

Three artists have assisted the curator with the system. Valentina Palonen has supplied the life-sized model hands holding shells, crystals, rocks and pine cones, Anna Parry the painted settings and Belle Bassin has done black and white digital prints.

You get the impression that the work inside each of these letter-sized mailboxes may not be the important issue, although Parry’s tentative little landscapes in boxes 2, 6, 9 and 11 speak of secret worlds bursting to break out.

Some artists are modest about the effort involved in painting and Parry’s intense engagement with local wildlife and her command of watercolour, gouache and ink are not really given an outing in this hideaway.

Sometimes it takes an enthusiastic curator to bring out the hidden talents of reluctant narrators. Sometimes they are subsumed within a system. Such is the life of the city where thousands of voices compete to be heard.

Heathen is on at Mailbox Art Space, 141-143 Flinders Lane until July 30

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