‘AWAKE’ by This Little Collective at Off the Kerb

It’s a love-fest over at Off the Kerb, this month. The Collingwood gallery is about to open a new show called Awake – a wide-ranging exhibition brimming with local talent, made by artists for artists, and funded by art lovers.

The show is curated by This Little Collective, also known as Lucy Yu and Sally Land. The talented pair are both artists in their own right, and after meeting in 2013 during a show co-curated by Sally and featuring Lucy, the twosome were inspired to form their collective by their shared desire to create a platform which would promote and foster likeminded creatives.

530Invitation featuring artwork by Kyoko Imazu. Courtesy of Off the Kerb/This Little Collective.

As well as having support from the ever wonderful Off the Kerb, Awake was also made possible by a Pozible crowd-funding campaign. It’s here that the love for creativity and the support of The Little Collective’s community comes into focus, with the artists championed by the curators chipping in to help the project come to fruition, as well. It just goes to show – creativity is contagious!

I recently had the chance to chat with Lucy and Sally about This Little Collective, how they came to work together, and their upcoming show:

Outlet Magazine: What are your backgrounds?

Lucy Yu: I grew up around animals (my parents were vets), reruns of Sailor Moon, playing hide-and-seek amongst trees and always drawing.

My family and I moved from China to New Zealand when I was 8, and I feel blessed to have grown up in a country so filled with nature and open spaces. After studying Film and Art History at the University of Auckland, I moved to Wellington, freelancing as an artist and portrait-maker before getting married, taking a whirlwind honeymoon around Europe, and taking the leap over to Melbourne in 2013. Now I continue to to create and collaborate as an artist, while also studying for an Advanced Diploma in Yoga Teaching.

Sally Land: I’ve always loved drawing, I lived in the seaside town of San Remo in rural Victoria with my family until I was 18. I love making things with my hands and drawing was a rewarding way to pass the time in such a quiet place.

I moved to Melbourne to study for my diploma of illustration at Melbourne Polytechnic and I’ve been working as a freelance illustrator for 3 or 4 years now, I’m also a designer for the very quirky Melbourne jewellery label ‘Erstwilder’. I want to draw pretty pictures forever, so I think illustration is the best job in the world for me.

O: How did you come to work together as ‘This Little Collective’?

Sally: We met in 2013, Lucy was one of the wonderful artists in an exhibition called ‘Lepus Australis’ that I co-curated with Emma Leonard – who also happens to be an artist in ‘Awake’.

Lucy: We found that we both felt strongly about creating an accessible platform for artists to connect with and support other likeminded creatives – more tangibly than on a screen!

Sally: Yes! we both wanted to promote the talented creatives that we love. They’re all making such amazing art and doing such incredible things and we just want to shout it from the rooftops and share them and their work with everyone.

Lucy: Artists work incredibly hard, often putting in hours of work that are not reflected in what they receive financially for their work. It’s tricky as an emerging artist to find balance, between artistic integrity and commercial viability. Hours in the studio can make for a lonely pursuit sometimes – but it is a worthwhile journey with many rewards.

We wanted to have a place where creatives can share experiences, be uplifted by each other, and thus fuelled in their individual paths.

Sally: We also met Shini from Off the Kerb Gallery at ‘Lepus’ in 2013 too and she asked us if we’d like to hold another group show. Off the Kerb is the most beautiful space and Shini and her team are so incredibly supportive and encouraging of local and emerging artists so it really all fell right into place.

Lucy: Our underlying intention is all about getting together, taking the time to appreciate the finer details in life, and giving each other that little boost we all need to keep going. We chose the name ‘This Little Collective’ to embody this simple and humble intention.

Emily Wright.
Courtesy of Emily Wright/Off the Kerb/This Little Collective. All rights reserved.

O: Tell us a little bit about ‘Awake’.

Lucy: The boundary between dreaming and waking is an intriguing place, and studying Yoga has deepened my questioning of what it really means to be present, and fully awake. Particularly in our lifestyle of travelling from iPhone screen to laptop screen to TV screen, and all the blazing sensory distractions in between, when are we really ‘here’, and in the ‘now’?

One way to find presence is to take yourself out of your head; to become another so you can see yourself as an outsider. I have always been drawn to the connection between different creatures, so it was an intuitive and fitting way to explore the concept of perspective; of seeing through the eyes of another creature. In the sleepy Winter months of 2015 I proposed the concept of ‘Awake’ to Sally, and by Spring we had hatched it into a 30-artist group show, to be crowdfunded via Pozible!

Sally: I loved the concept, for me this exhibition is a great reminder about appreciating my surroundings and those around me more, being grateful for the time we have here in this life and realising how amazing this world we’re all passing through really is. The Pozible campaign and the beautiful kind hearted supporters really helped us make this show something special. Without them we couldn’t have made it what it is and it all comes back to that underlying theme.

O: How did you select the artists featured in the show?

Lucy: The intention was to highlight emerging artists based in Australia, whose work aligns with the show concept. Sal and I share admiration for many of the same artists, so it made sense to reach out to them first. Over the planning months we continually found and reached out to more artists whose work fit the theme beautifully. It’s been a wonderful way to meet some extremely talented creatives, and we still feel so grateful for the enthusiasm and involvement of the ‘Awake’ artists!

Sally: Yeah! We’ve basically just found all of our favourite artists and put them all together in one show. Some of the artists are more established while others are really new on the scene but overall their various styles complement one another wonderfully.

People like Cameron Brideoake, Sarah Pook and Sharnee Taylor were all people we immediately knew wanted in the show. We just have so many creative people around us and we’re so excited that we can provide a platform to share these talented artists and their work.

533Have You Always Been a Wolf, I Swore You Were Human.
Lauren Carney.
Courtesy of Lauren Carney/Off the Kerb/This Little Collective. All rights reserved.

O: Are the pieces commissioned specifically for the exhibition, or did you choose from existing works?

Lucy: All artists were sent a show brief, which outlined the theme to be explored. There are a couple of artists who had existing works that fitted well with the theme, but all other artworks are made specifically for ‘Awake’. It’s such a rewarding experience to see how each artist has interpreted the same concept!

O: Did the initial idea behind the show evolve as you began finding and putting pieces together? How?

Lucy: We stayed true to the initial concept throughout, but certainly found lots of inspiration, and some recurring ideas in everyone’s take on the theme.

Sally: It has evolved, these things always do don’t they. It’s one of the best parts of any creative process. Actually originally we had thought we would do a small show of maybe 4 or 5 artists but, well we know so many talented artists that we couldn’t help ourselves and we ended up with a gallery full of 30 artists instead!

534Summer Landscape.
Shawn Lu.
Courtesy of Shawn Lu/Off the Kerb/This Little Collective. All rights reserved.

O: You’ve quoted OSHO in some of your press kit. Were his teachings particularly influential to you when you were putting ‘Awake’ together? And if so, how?

Sally: Lucy actually introduced me to his quotes as we started working on the show!

Lucy: Osho is such a wild and quirky character! I was reading his book ‘Creativity: Unleashing the Forces Within’, and some of his words really ring true to the human experience. On enriching life as well know it, he outlines what he calls the 3 ‘C’s – ‘Consciousness is being, Compassion is feeling, Creativity is action’. To put it simply, what more is there to living a good life than to be, to feel, and to act in accordance to our best selves?

Art has the power to captivate people’s attention, and help interrupt the mind-chatter we experience. Sometimes this pause – even if it’s just a passing moment of reflection – can alter the direction of our day. We wanted this show to be a reminder that despite all the deadlines, responsibilities, unexpected interruptions tugging at our attention, we will always have constancy if we choose to see it: we have breath in our being, capacity to be compassionate (to ourselves and to others), and the ability to be creative.

O: What would you describe as being the connective thread between the works in the exhibition?

Lucy: We anticipated a diversity in the interpretation of the ‘Awake’ theme, so to link the pieces together we specified a uniform size and frame for all of the artwork.

Sally: Animals will be a big connection between the pieces in some shape or form also.

Lucy: Yes! I feel like all of our artists share a degree of love for animals, which may have also attracted them to exploring this concept too.

Elissa Sampson.
Courtesy of Elissa Sampson/Off the Kerb/This Little Collective. All rights reserved.

O: Are there any cornerstone pieces around which the show was built? Or, do either of you have a favourite piece, or one that you especially enjoy?

Lucy: It’s hard to choose a favourite! I have to say that I love our invitation, which features the artwork of Melbourne-based artists and wonderful person Kyoko Imazu. The elements of travel, of diversity, and of exploration really capture the spirit of ‘Awake’!

Sally: We knew we had asked amazing artists to come on board for the show but we have been so blown away by all of the work that has been submitted. We asked one artist, Anna Seed, to be in the show at the very last minute and she absolutely rose to the challenge we’d given her and submitted a stunning piece within an incredibly short time frame. I think Kirrily Anderson was the first to submit her piece and that was definitely a jaw dropping moment too, her work is always so incredibly beautiful and so detailed! But they’re all my favourites. The level of commitment and care all the artists have shown to their artworks and this show has been outstanding, it really is going to be a very special must-see exhibition.

O: Are either of you working on anything new? What’s next for you?

Lucy: Yes! I look forward to continuing, and completing my studies in Yoga Teaching. I am very excited to be working with some new collaborators who I deeply admire, including Vinita, founder of Melbourne-based Bhumi Organic Cotton (http://bhumi.com.au), on projects that are flexing my creative muscles in new directions. Aside from this, a personal series on the theme of hands, and how we use them to interact with the world, is slowly evolving.

Sally: Group shows always leave me feeling really inspired to create so I think it might be time for me to do some experimenting with my own work and perhaps then a solo show. I have a sneaking suspicion another group show will happen eventually because I know I can’t get enough of all of these talented people.

Lucy: And who knows what ‘This Little Collective’ will get up to next? There’s definitely plans brewing… It’s going to be an exciting year ahead!

A very big thank-you to Lucy and Sally for taking the time to chat with us.

536Courtesy of Kirrily Anderson/Off the Kerb/This Little Collective. All rights Reserved.

Awake by This Little Collective opens at Off the Kerb on the night of April 29, from 6 – 9pm. The show will run from April 28 through to May 12. Off the Kerb is located at 66B Johnston Street in Collingwood, and is open from 12:30pm to 6pm Thursday – Friday, and 12pm to 5pm on Saturday + Sunday.

You can find more information about the gallery at their website: offthekerb.com.

You can find more information about This Little Collective via their Facebook page , and their Instagram page.

If you’d like to learn more about the exhibition, head on over to the Facebook event page and the Eventbrite page.

Artwork by Kyoko Imazu