Culture Scouts Explores Sydney Galleries: Newsagency

Newsagency Gallery is part of Inner West Open Studio Tour 2018 (IWOST)

All Culture Scouts are suckers for fun gallery finds - and our Inner West team are no different when scouting for our walking tours. When we enter today, the walls of Newsagency Gallery are laden with bright punk pop-art. You could be forgiven for thinking they were from the seventies, except for their relatively new condition.

But these colour soaked prints are in fact reflective of the ever changing politics of Australia’s closest neighbours - south-east Asia and China.

“Cambodia is having a cultural renaissance,” explains Bess, as she points to a bright red and blue Cambodian print, by artist Sticky Fingers. “They were in a real stasis in terms of their art - after Pol Pot. It's having a renaissance now.”

“It’s humorous, some of its naughty; it’s beautiful and intelligent.”

Credit:  Sticky Fingers  for Krack! Studios

Credit: Sticky Fingers for Krack! Studios

Bess O’Malley is the founder and director of the Petersham based gallery, with Jose Herrera acting as assistant curator. She shows Culture Scouts a work by Indonesian artist Bayo Widodo - a green hand reaching up, covered in vines and houses.

Wadodo, a celebrated artist originally from Sumatra, based in Yogyakarta and represented by Louis Vuitton, is one of her favourites that regularly appears in her collection.

Works from Newsagency Gallery, Hendra Harsona, Bayu Widodo, Restu Ratnaningtyas

“Indonesian artists works are anarchist, raw, politicised,” says Bess, pulling more of Widodo’s works from the drawers, filled with prints (which, like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, are seemingly bottomless. “They’re interested in the individual in Yogyakarta - it has a rigorous contemporary arts scene.”

Bess explains to Culture Scouts that this group has grown out of reformasi artists - part of the group that matured as artists during social upheaval at end of the Suharto military dictatorship in the 90’s - and are very heavily into social justice.

“Widodo runs a studio called SURVIVE!Garage which is full of  young anarchist kids in Indonesia who are really progressive,” says Bess.

“They had made artworks to protest the Suharto regime and now they look at  environmental protection in Indonesia, and workers rights and women's rights.”

When asked about the difference between how Australian and South-East Asian artists operate, Bess has a multifaceted answer - first of which is that the cheap cost of living is beneficial to artists growth - “they develop so quickly there!”

“Australia's a little bit lost in privilege.”

She also says that it is important for Australia to see itself in terms of its geographic location: “We’re so eurocentric and we’re not even in Europe - we’re in the middle of the Asia Pacific!”

“South-East Asia is in the most fascinating place politically, and has most interesting contemporary art world. Last decade it was China, now it’s there.”

Sophia de Mestre on Culture Scouts walking tour with Bess O'Malley

Sophia de Mestre on Culture Scouts walking tour with Bess O'Malley

As well as representing and selling works of artists, Newsagency is also heavily involved in Sydney cultural life.

They’ve been involved in Mardi Gras (organising artists Benoit and Bo’s ‘Sydney Love Map’ for their 2015 party).

They also hosts events and parties - perhaps the most exciting of which, is a planned light show soiree that will be celebrating Vivid 2018. Culture Scouts will be there will bells on.

Newsagency Gallery is part of Inner West Open Studio Tour 2018 (IWOST), one of the Sydney local tours run by Culture Scouts

Bo + Benoit 'Sydney Love Map' Credit: Newsagency Gallery

Bo + Benoit 'Sydney Love Map' Credit: Newsagency Gallery