30 years of artistic innovation: Melbourne’s Gertrude shapes the contemporary art landscape
By Elizabeth Reidy
One of the longest-standing incubator gallery and studio programmes in the Australian contemporary art sphere, Melbourne’s Gertrude has shaped and reshaped the currents and trends of the cutting edge of artistic practice for more than 30 years. As a non-commercial, not-for-profit, independent space comprising two gallery venues and a large in-house studio programme, Gertrude seethes with an unapologetic creative energy that places artists at the centre of its ethos and encourages risk-taking, innovation and ambition.
Established in 1983 as a series of artist studios in a converted textile factory on Gertrude St in the artsy mecca of Melbourne’s Fitzroy, under the name ‘200 Gertrude’, the organisation committed itself to the presentation and production of experimental and contemporary art. The ethos of this establishment has continued since then, and in 2017 the organisation relocated to its now primary venue in High St, Preston, converting a furniture warehouse into a thriving artist studio and gallery complex and renaming itself ‘Gertrude’ as an homage to its original home. Gertrude Glasshouse is a satellite gallery venue based in Collingwood, dedicated to the presentation of solo exhibitions realised by artists in residence in the Gertrude Studio Program.
The current exhibitions include the works of Melbourne-based dancer and choreographer Lillian Steiner in Gallery 1, which explore the relationship between sculpture, movement, and choreography. In Flesh and Diamonds, Steiner captures elements of dance through print, sculpture and performative gesture in an abstracted installation. Gallery 2 features a site-specific installation entitled‘Wall, Floor and Ceiling’ by South Korea-born, New Zealand-based Yona Lee. Taking inspiration from revered Swiss architect Le Corbusier, Lee has created a sleek minimalist installation that plays with functionality and familiarity in domestic and industrial environments. ‘Wall, Floor and Ceiling’ draws connections to the previous function of the Gertrude building in Preston as a furniture warehouse, using slick industrial materials to present refined sculptural objects that recall the industrial history of the building and question how objects in a space may be reinvented by their relationship to context.
The Gertrude Editions programme was developed to make connections between current and emerging Gertrude Studio Artists and the gallery’s prestigious alumni from the last 30 years. Released annually, the Editions’ bespoke commissions comprise works by some of the leading artists in Australia and the world, including (in recent years) Christian Thompson, Paul Yore, Jess Johnson, Richard Lewer, Emily Floyd and Ricky Swallow. The remarkable alumni of exhibiting and studio artists place Gertrude squarely in the global artworld ecology.