The best thing about an urban environment is being able to be pleasantly surprised by what you find behind closed doors - even if you are locals like us! This is a lesson Culture Scouts experienced at the end of last year when we stumbled across one of Sydney’s best art collections in a two-storey Erskineville terrace house: the Elliot Eyes Collection.
Standing outside on a summer evening, clutching umbrellas in case the threatening storm clouds broke, Culture Scouts were welcomed by Gordon Elliott. Gordon (who is the Elliott to his co-collector and partner, Michael Eyes = Elliott Eyes) has been collecting for over 20 years. Him and Michael art collection is now in the hundreds.
“There’s 354, 355 works in the collection,” says Gordon, as we sit in his front room. Every space imaginable has been taken up with paintings, sculptures and ceramics. A Todd Fuller faceless bunny-man sculpture sits on the mantelpiece and a Rick Amor oil painting next to the stairs. Three of us sit under a large scale Peter Churcher painting (a nude portrait titled Sanson, where the figure is reclining head closest to the viewer), sipping champagne as we listen to Gordon speak about his past (as well as the contemporary Australian art scene).
According to him, his passion for collecting very much got underway after the tragedy of his first partner passing away.
“Whenever I was down, I’d buy myself a bit of art,” explained Gordon. “That’s how it started.”
Figures and the human body are a massive theme in the collection. One of the most interesting examples of this is the larger than life Adam Stone sculpture in the backyard. A young man (according to Stone it is a ‘self portrait crash’) is falling head first to the ground, capturing the moment before impact. Gordon says that all the children from the school next door can see is the tip of the foot. He’s planning on putting it at a higher point so they can see it better. Elliot Eyes hold the philosophy that art should be accessible.
“We decided to open it [the collection] up as usually when art goes into a private collection, you never see it,” Gordon says. It is open to the public on appointment.
As Culture Scouts goes upstairs, we see on the stairs where Gordon and Michael have taken advantage of the relative lack of damaging sunlight to hang paper artworks, including those by Donald Friend.
In the bedroom, above the door is a 2015 neon, ‘ALWAYS WAS’, by multimedia artist Reko Rennie, exploring Indigenous themes. Across from it is an incredible Michael Zavros work, who Gordon contacted to beg for an artwork from, and was offered one to purchase form the artist’s own collection. It is an art lover's dream bedroom
“We do tours to educate that you can have an art collection,” says Gordon. “When you say I have no room, that’s crap. Look at this.”
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