Arts Hub Review "Living LARGE"

By Zoe Rinkel ArtsHub | Wednesday, July 01, 2009

As Northcote continues the steady build of its creative community, galleries are blossoming in the area. This was particularly vivid during the Northern Exposure festival, which ran from the 19th to the 21st of June. Exhibitions overflowed with local entries – a brilliant showcase of North-side talent.

Contributing to the pulsating energy of the festival weekend was the opening of At Large gallery, a new space specialising in street art. This space is groaning with the eternally cool ‘DIY aesthetic’, and the promise of regular events and a high turnover of works makes it an exciting new addition to High St.

At Large is an interesting space in that, while it certainly celebrates new and local artists, it also subverts the traditional expectations we bring with us when we enter a gallery space. Its black walls are packed with a variety of styles (photography to drawing to a painted plank of wood) which all consider art’s place in an urban landscape. What “should”, in our understanding, be kept outside, is brought in, framed, hung, contemplated in an alien context.
On my way to the gallery, I wondered how street art would translate from ‘real world’ to the confinement of the gallery. I expected it to be difficult, and in a way I was right, there was a certain awkwardness about it, but in another way I was surprised to find myself becoming quite immersed in some of the works – the art forcing me to take notice of the things that, in the outside world, blend into the overall chaos of the city.

That being said, this is Melbourne, and street art is embedded into our very psyche. It’s very hard to explain the difference between seeing street art in its natural environment, and seeing it inside a gallery space. Street art has a kind of freedom to it which is hindered by its enclosure in the gallery. Luckily, At Large finds a way to overcome this. Through the back door there is a large garden area… with four walls. The bi-monthly events At Large promises will include live painting of these walls, and this is a really exciting initiative. Having events like this brings the two worlds – street and gallery – together, and really validates the importance of the whole space. What is ordinarily a back alley project is brought into the spotlight and, hoodies pulled back, anonymous street artists are given an appreciative audience.

At Large Gallery
208 High St, Northcote
At Large Gallery is open Wednesday – Sunday 11am-6pm or by appointment.
See website for details.

Zoe Rinkel
Zoe Rinkel is a Melbourne-based contributor.