It’s not like you need a compass or dowsing rods to find BLINDSIDE, but you won’t just happen upon this hidden gem. That’s gallery chair Claire Watson’s creed: stay on the down low, create a kick-arse program of contemporary exhibitions and the people will come. We chatted to Claire about how she keeps this gallery alive, and why Melbourne’s art scene is so rich.
What gap does BLINDSIDE fill in Melbourne's art world?
BLINDSIDE is based in the heart of Melbourne in the old Nicholas Building, which was built in the 1920s. Without a prominent public facade, only the most intrepid artists and gallery-goers find us. Founded by artists for artists, BLINDSIDE opened its doors in 2004 out of a passion for experimental programming. Today, BLINDSIDE provides an ongoing program of professional support to emerging artists, while offering established artists the opportunity to expand their practice into new territories that may not fit in a commercial environment. The emphasis is on work that explores new ground, forges new partnerships and is multidisciplinary by nature.
What makes up the engine that keeps BLINDSIDE running?
BLINDSIDE's driving force is love and enthusiasm for contemporary art. Our committee is made up of dedicated professionals volunteering their spare time toward coordinating the impressive program of exhibitions. Blindside maintains a network of artists, writers and curators to help maintain the quality of our exhibitions and constantly reach out to new audiences.
Who are the artists that most inspire you?
Australian artists Louise Paramor and Brook Andrew always draw me to their works. They have an innate understanding of colour and form. Internationally, I am awestruck by Paul McCarthy's ability to bring humour and the absurd to the art world – in sometimes disturbing ways. Jessica Stockholder is someone I love for blurring parameters and creating works that are living, breathing and immersive, and Hieronymus Bosch, for exploring sexuality in the most fantastical of ways.
Favourite exhibition so far at the gallery?
I am really fond of our Debut series because it epitomises what BLINDSIDE is all about: supporting great local talent. Each year since 2005 we’ve selected graduate work from across Victorian universities to present. It comes at a critical stage in their development as they make the transition from tertiary education into professional careers. The artists that have come to life through this experience and are fast becoming household names include: Kristin McIver, Natalie Ryan and Carl Scrase. I also can't wait to see our inaugural Festival Everywhere But Here, launching August 2. The multi-platform event revolves around themes of travel, transition and place.
Which superpower would you prefer, invisibility or flight?
Flight! The inability to fly would have to be the one flaw in the human body. Imagine how much cleaner the planet would be if we didn't need to drive cars or fly in aeroplanes.
Why is Melbourne such a great city for artists and art lovers?
Melbourne is the No.1 Australian destination for art lovers. There is so much going on at any given moment – both at high profile institutions (ACCA, ACMI, NGV etc.) and the more obscure art spaces. Our laneways are brimming with artistic innovation, while the Nicholas Building, on the corner of Swanston Street and Flinders Lane, is a valuable hub for creative expression, for people from all walks of life.