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Art imitates (lockdown) life in exhibition at Melbourne’s bus and train stations

Art imitates (lockdown) life in exhibition at Melbourne’s bus and train stations

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While many physical galleries and other ‘non-essential’ outlets remain closed throughout Victoria due to the second wave of lockdowns imposed by novel coronavirus, Melbourne’s STATION gallery has joined the raft of businesses spearheading creative ways of connecting with audiences during the pandemic.

“For STATION, like many businesses, one of the biggest challenges has been the forced temporary closure of our physical spaces,” says STATION gallery director Samantha Barrow. In a response that builds on Melbourne’s reputation for public art initiatives, STATION has partnered with oOh!media to deliver a thought-provoking exhibition using Melbourne’s bus shelters and train stations as temporary gallery spaces.

August 12, 2020 by Dave Lovett. Photo: Kate Collingwood Photography.
August 12, 2020 by Dave Lovett.

STATION gallery and oOh!media launch open-air exhibition

Throughout the month of September, works by a selection of STATION’s artists – including Adam Lee, Dane Lovett, David Griggs, Jason Phu, Jonny Niesche, and Nell – will be thoughtfully displayed around Melbourne suburbs.

It is the combined hope of all involved that this small gesture will strike a chord with the city’s residents, commuters and essential workers at multiple points throughout the day, when access to the outdoors is made available to them. “If we can encourage some moments of quiet reflection from the chaos of lockdown, then it’s worth it,” says Neil Ackland, chief content marketing and creative officer at oOh!media. 

If we can encourage some moments of quiet reflection from the chaos of lockdown, then it’s worth it.

Neil Ackland
I don’t exist in this dimension yet, you pervert, 2020 by Jason Phu. Photo: Kate Collingwood Photography.

Designed as a “love letter” to the city of Melbourne, the program celebrates the importance of art and artists in these challenging times. Artworks created for the campaign focus on the artists’ responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, interpretations of emotions felt during lockdown, shared experiences, and some of the possibilities and positive outcomes to arise from Victoria’s period of isolation.

Participating artist Jonny Niesche says the display of his work in an environment that would ordinarily be used for “static advertisements flipping from one to the next trying to sell you something” provides opportunity for observers to experience a moment of quiet contemplation. Defined by continuous, dreamy gradients that wrap around in cycles, Jonny’s work Dream Sequence features “no cuts, no breaks,” he says. Instead, the entrancing image revolves continuously “to form a moment of respite on the streets of Melbourne when time outside is so limited.” 

Public Intimacy, 2020 by Jonny Niesche. Photo: Kate Collingwood Photography.
Public Intimacy, 2020 by Jonny Niesche.

Jason Phu’s neon-coloured works combine the deeply emotional side of the new pandemic world with a dash of uplifting humour. “These works are about how you should feel during lockdown, to help you understand that all the good things in life can come from within you, deep in your guts,” he says. “You should understand there are many people that love you very much. And also, you shouldn’t stare at strangers at bus stops.”

‘The Propaganda Paintings’ series by artist David Griggs was shaped by the impact of the first wave of Covid-19 and carries much relevance into Melbourne’s second lockdown. “With a bombardment of news smashing into our minds, second by second I was left feeling confused. One day I felt hope, and the next was fear,” says the artist. “These works are innately personal and painting them enabled me to externalise a range of internal dialogues in a therapeutic manner as I navigated what our world was and is still going through.”

Our Song in the Night, 2020 by Adam Lee. Photo: Kate Collingwood Photography.
Our Song in the Night, 2020 by Adam Lee.

From the moment that lockdowns impacted cities across the globe, new avenues to present creative exhibitions have steadily opened up, each with the overarching goal to connect with audiences, share messages of love and hope, and to support artists during this challenging time. Most of these initiatives have been focussed in the digital arena, says Samantha, who strongly believes that virtual experiences, though a satisfactory quick-fix with significant audience reach, cannot fully replace physical experiences.

“We are so excited by this project, which has given us the opportunity to create a timely and accessible city-wide exhibition,” says Samantha. “Our collective hope is that they may bring stimulation, comfort and joy to Melburnians in this moment of isolation and restriction.”

Not in Melbourne? You can view all the artworks on Instagram by following along here and by viewing #STATIONinthecity, the social media hashtag that observers are encouraged to use when sharing their interactions with the artworks across the city.


Until we talk about who you are voting for, 2020 by Jason Phu. Photo: Kate Collingwood Photography.

Until we talk about who you are voting for, 2020 (left) and I don’t exist in this dimension yet, you pervert, 2020 (right), both by Jason Phu.

August 18, 2020 by Dane Lovett. Photo: Kate Collingwood Photography.

August 26, 2020 (left) and August 18, 2020 (right), both by Dane Lovett.
STATION gallery Melbourne show artworks in public spaces, including this piece by Nell
It’s hard to find…, 2020 by Nell. (detail also pictured at very top). Photo: Kate Collingwood Photography.
I’m going HOME, 2017 (left) and It’s hard to find…, 2020 (right), both by Nell.
Propaganda Painting (Number Seven), 2020 by David Griggs. Photo: Kate Collingwood Photography.

Propaganda paintings (number ten), 2020 (left) and Propaganda Painting (Number Seven), 2020 (right), both by David Griggs.

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