Postcard From...

Ella Sutherland, Sydney, Australia
Photo: Ella Sutherland

Photo: Ella Sutherland

I moved to Sydney from Christchurch in 2016. Arriving to a job teaching in the Visual Communication program at UTS and an existing network, it was a relatively soft-landing. This role, along with a studio practice composed of exhibition making and the production of publications was my main focus until earlier this year when I decided to take time from teaching to participate in a series of residencies here and overseas. These plans were, of course, reconfigured by the pandemic, but the flipside of making this space has been finding a focused stretch of time in the studio, something which is not easy to find in Sydney.

I live in the eastern suburbs, Potts Point, adjacent to the dwindling red-light area of Kings Cross. A long-running yet rapidly creeping gentrification has whittled this to a minor bubble around the station. Being part of the gentrification process myself it might seem a little hollow to lament such grittiness, but the sweatered boomers and dewy young professionals come with their own challenges. The area is one of the most densely populated in Australia, comprised predominantly of Art Deco apartments originally built for single women working in the city. A gentle walk around the wharf, and a cut through the Botanics will have you in the CBD without an inkling of traffic or transport. There is a certain boutique arrogance that permeates streets so close to water, foliage, and European-styled delicatessens. Both irritating and charming, Sydney’s near year-round beauty does well to balance a scepticism imported with me from New Zealand.

For the past six weeks I temporarily relocated my studio to Blacktown in Sydney’s west. Needing more space to produce work for an upcoming show, I traded two hours of travel for the opportunity to spread out. Given that travel is off the cards, I found the commute did well to bookend the day with that meandering tier of thought only prompted by states such as train travel. Yet to fall into the grasp of the developer, Blacktown’s owner-operated grocers, $2.50 flat whites and diverse community has a dynamism that seems a distant memory in the inner-city. I have been working in an ex-council building, ordinarily used for theatre rehearsals. Three walls of windows and elevated one storey from the ground, this leftover from the seventies has offered an unexpected air of performativity to making work. It wasn’t until my last week in the space that I realised once the sun set, with the lights left on, I was offering a very visible broadcast of making a show.