Belonging, a group exhibition showcasing the creative works of 25 artists, is taking place in the WOTSO building – the former Royal Far West children’s hospital at 19 – 21 South Steyne – on Manly seafront over the weekend of 2 – 4 December 2022.
Curator and artist Shari Dior Pagliasso, of Creative Garage Collective, revealed to Manly Observer that the exhibition draws together a group of local mixed-media creatives under the theme of wanting to belong.
“The theme is ‘Belonging’,” she explained, “because it feels like a really nice word that just encapsulates that feeling of everybody having a space to come and to belong.”
The building in which the exhibition features, former medical facilities and hospital wards, including treatment rooms for polio, is managed by WOTSO.
WOTSO is the largest co-working space operator in Australia, with 1000 offices spread over 20 locations nationally. They take over empty buildings in urban areas (some of them near-derelict and requiring upgrades) and convert them to a mixture of community workspaces with flexible tenancy terms.
“It also ties in really well with what Wotso is all about,” she continued, “because Wotso is a place where everyone can kind of ‘belong’. Like people from different walks of life and businesses come together and share communal space and work in a flexible way. I think the show kind of ties into that concept.”
The 25 participating artists have contributed two works each to the exhibition.
“There’s going to be some paintings,” Shari revealed, “acrylics and watercolours, plus some prints, and some digital art shown on the TV screen. Mostly paintings, but also sculptures by Michaela Turancova.”
Michaela Turancova is an award-winning Slovak-Australian designer and sculptor. In December 2018, as a student at Northern Beaches Secondary College, she achieved the highest score in NSW in Textiles and Design for her HSC coursework with a dress that took her 250 hours to make.
“Michaela is an artist connected to Wotso,” Shari revealed. “She provided a beautiful piece of art, a seal, made of recycled metal, that will be the centrepiece of the show. All of her sculptures are amazing and tied into themes of how we can protect animals.”
Another of Michaela’s sculptures, a metre-long shark made of steel wire and scrap metal and with an open belly exposing its internal organs, was once displayed in Manly Aquarium.
From disaster, luck emerges
The exhibitors were previously scheduled to showcase their works in two converted shipping containers in Martin Place in the City during the 2022 Vivid Festival in May. However, a minor disaster scuttled that venture.
Shari explained the calamity: “We had two shipping containers, a 40-foot and a 20-foot, to play with and deck out. And we had the 25 artists who were keen to show during opening week of Vivid, right in the middle of the city…
“All of the art pieces could be purchased on the spot through a QR code and we were going to set up our own little wrapping station so that people could bubble-wrap the artworks they bought after literally taking them off the walls…..
“We also had Lionfish Tattoo Collective who were going to do live tattooing in the space alongside the art show. Real tattooing!
“So it was all in the works and we got the approval from City of Sydney Council and the necessary licencing and it was crazy, because somehow we managed to pull all of this together in just three weeks.
“And then, a few days prior to the show, one of the neighbours in the shipping yard where we had the containers stored moved our 40 foot one to make space for theirs. However, they lifted it from the top instead of from the bottom, and the whole roof caved in!
“Luckily, the artworks weren’t inside, so they weren’t damaged. But it was just heartbreaking, because we had this show waiting to go, with the artworks ready to set up once the container got delivered to Martin Place. Then something outside of our control happened and we couldn’t go ahead because the venue was pretty much destroyed.
“It was going to cost around eight grand to fix the container, which we didn’t have. So we had to call off the show. And it took about three months to recover from the stress and intensity and letting everyone down.
But fortune favoured the brave…
“Then I started working at Wotso,” Shari revealed. “It’s a creative job, and part of it is to create events for our members. So I said to my manager, ‘this is an amazing space, would you like to do an art show here?’ And she said ‘yes’, as they actually wanted to do an art show in the beachfront lounge.
“Given that I had the Vivid show just waiting to happen, it was just the perfect opportunity for us all to come together again, so my partner at Creative Garage Collective, Antoo Varghese, and I put on the show for everyone to enjoy after all.
“I’m really passionate about community and culture and supporting local artists, so that’s really what drives the whole thing.”
Creative Garage Collective on Instagram
Belonging Facebook Event Link