In Arts + Entertainment

First Look: Cement Fondu, Paddington

A converted tyre factory will become Sydney's newest arts space.

Sydney is already home to some of the most forward-thinking and explorative contemporary arts spaces in the country, but that’s not to say there’s no room for more. Come March, a 270sqm converted tyre factory in Paddington will be unveiled as Cement Fondu, a brand new and totally unique exhibition and live arts space.

cement fondu art gallery Paddington sydney

Cement Fondu directors Megan Monte and Josephine Skinner Photo: Tom Polo

Carving out its own space in the Sydney contemporary art scene, Cement Fondu will host a year-round program chock full of multi-art form exhibitions, performances, public workshops and artist residencies – some of the finest work coming out of Australia and beyond.

“Cement Fondu aspires to the ambition of larger public institutions: the quality of high-end commercial galleries and the energy of Sydney’s Artist Run Initiatives,” says co-director Josephine Skinner.

cement fondu art gallery Paddington sydney

Amber Koroluk Stephenson, Paradise Dreaming, 2015. mixed media

“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.”

Skinner and fellow director Megan Monte are integral members of Sydney’s new curatorial guard – they’re tackling the feat of opening a gallery space with vigour, fresh eyes and a sincere passion for the arts. Cement Fondu is the natural extension of this approach.

cement fondu art gallery Paddington sydney

Nerine Tilmouth, Cowboys Playing Eagle at Laramba 2015. Acrylic on wood 60cm-x-80cm. Photo: Courtesy of Tangentyere Artists

“Sydney is such a social community, and I believe it secretly thrives on arts and culture,” Monte says. “Artists are so important because their contribution is beyond aesthetics; they are problem solvers and part of the infrastructure of our society. Through their work, the arts offers a place for people to come together on familiar and sometimes unexpected ground.”

“The arts industry has taken a blow by the extent people now view shows online,” says Skinner

“But having lived in the UK and spent time in LA and New York, I think Sydney has much to be proud of. We just need to get more people into galleries to see and enjoy what’s being produced, and we’re hoping that by offering multiple reasons to come visit, Cement Fondu will play a little part.”

Paul Yore, Art Is Nature, 2016.

Cement Fondu’s inaugural exhibition, opening March 10, is called SUBURBIA, and deals with the universal notion of nostalgia for the suburbs in which we grow up. The 15 Australian and international artists have been encouraged to engage with the metaphor of “looking beyond our own backyard” to create work that touches on cultural clashes and cultural identities, Australiana, the body and the home.

“It was a priority for us to launch with a theme that is ingrained in our everyday experience, yet offering a complexity deep enough to incite conversation around current issues,” says Monte.

Radha La Bia Shahmen in Suku The Divine Game Photo: Tim da Rin

“For me, suburbia prompts memories of the one-story, three-bedroom brick home that housed a family of six. Hot summers spent in our above ground pool. Grocery shopping at Jewels and Duffy Brothers. Working in a fish and chip shop in Minto. Forever texting my friend on a Nokia 5110. We all have our own suburbia.”

“We wanted to draw out the great disparity between a globalised idea of suburbia as often exported by US TV dramas,” says Skinner.

“Our selected artists respond to suburbia through sometimes funny, sometimes moving experiences. They celebrate suburbia for its banal, kitsch and nostalgic qualities and also embrace beautiful moments of commonality, dialogue, and the expression of difference.”

Beyond SUBURBIA, Cement Fondu’s three other programmed shows include a Turner Prize-winning artist, a NSW-based Muslim Black Death Metal band for Halloween, an ambitious commission from Sydney artist Emily Parsons-Lord, and a collaboration between filmmaker Mona Ibrahim and the NSW Refugee Art Project. To call this a huge first year for Cement Fondu would be an understatement.

“We’re starting big,” says Skinner. “But we’re working hard to materialise our vision, and we’re hoping to gain support and trust along the way!”

Subscribe to Cement Fondu’s newsletter and keep your eyes trained on the Instagram account for updates. Cement Fondu opens March 10, at 36 Gosbell Street, Paddington, 6-8pm.

Published 05 February, 2018