Suburbia | Cement Fondu

Fifteen Australian and international artists conjure a vast vision of suburbia for the inaugural exhibition at Cement Fondu, a new Sydney arts space that aims to pluralise the way we engage with culture. The 270sqm converted tyre factory and former Stills Gallery is the project of Megan Monte and Josephine Skinner, two curators who met five years ago at the Campbelltown Arts Centre – in Sydney’s suburbia.

‘Suburbia’ breaches the boundaries of the backyard by unpacking issues embedded deep in the heart of suburban existence – cultural identity, colonisation, social conformity, migration, Australiana, the body and the home. Artists engage a broad spectrum of art forms to tell their stories, including needle-point embroidery, live performance, painting, spoken word, ceramics, installation and digital media. The exhibition challenges audiences to think more expansively about suburbia as something that it is not simply place-based but experiential; ideological, shedding presumptions and prejudices about life in the ‘burbs.

Artist Profile spoke to Monte and Skinner about their new venture ahead of the opening of ‘Suburbia’.

What are you hoping to achieve with Cement Fondu?

We’re carving out a new and unique type of art space that aspires to the ambition of larger public institutions, the quality of high-end commercial galleries, and the energy of Sydney’s Artist Run Initiatives. We’re also walking a line between satisfying those interested in deep, challenging and critical enquiry and also offering genuinely relatable and fun encounters with art.

Why ’Suburbia’?

Conventionally, suburbia conjures images of backyard sausage sizzles, white picket fences and neatly trimmed lawns at the culturally conservative edges of cities. A vision that lives on thanks to exported US dramas but sits at odds with the realities of living in Australia today. With inner city gentrification, immigrant communities pushed to the fringes of cities, high-density urban living and outback modernisation, the meaning of suburbia is ripe to be teased apart and redefined – through a perspective of difference and reflecting social and cultural shifts that play out in our everyday.

The theme seems fitting for your inaugural offering in the local suburb of Paddington. What are some of the ideas driving the show?

The exhibition takes a fresh look at Suburbia through the eyes of a culturally and geographically diverse selection of artists. From the perspectives of Tangentyere indigenous painters who make keen observations of ‘outback suburbia’, to those from further afield with Daata Edition’s international video artists, this exhibition explores our complex and evolving relationships to each other and the places we inhabit.

Building upon the long-held, complex relationships artists have with suburbia, the artworks presented are as controversial as they are celebratory. Some artists shine a light on forms of social injustice or speak to the personal struggles and psychological complexities that play out behind closed doors. Others embrace suburbia’s banal, kitsch and nostalgic qualities as points of connection, and recognise the home as a safe space for intimacy and expression of difference.

10 March – 29 April 2018
Cement Fondu, Sydney