Kick Gallery

Posted: 14 Feb 2013  |  By: Joseph Brennan

In her 1992 biography of modern dance legend Martha Graham, Agnes de Mille recounts a 1943 meeting where she confesses to Graham a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that she can be. To this Graham leans over the restaurant table at which they are seated and replies, “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.” They were words shared between artists of an embodied form, words that carry with them a profound understanding for the unique impact of the artistic body in motion. Broadening Graham’s ideas to encompass the visual arts, I see a similar wisdom and appreciation for the potential of artistic movement in Melbourne’s Kick Gallery.

As founding director Jacob Hoerner explains, the gallery’s name and intent is connected to an action, a movement of the body that symbolises for Hoerner something happening and in play. “There are many ways in which one ‘kicks’,” he said. “There can be a football kick, a karate kick, you can kick someone to motivate them, you can kick back in protest, you can get your kicks — it’s versatile, dynamic and represents many different actions in many different contexts.” And it’s this word that has become an allegory for the aims of his gallery, one aim being to foster “the practice of artists that have a certain independence from the visual arts as an industry per se”.

This perhaps makes sense given the humble beginnings of the gallery, which came to be in 2002 in a space in Northcote that was once a clothing store run by Hoerner. “The shop I had in Northcote was still under lease for very little money and so I thought that it would make a good gallery space to exhibit all of my artist friends,” he said. “It wasn’t set up with any long-term plans and in the first year we hosted only five exhibitions.” However, each year the number of exhibitions increased (the gallery now mounts thirteen solo exhibitions and two group shows each year) as Kick built a core of artists, some who remain with the gallery today. “Tim Vagg, Rius Carson, Damian FitzGerald, Michael Portley, Leigh Backhouse, Keith Deverell and a little later Jewels Stevens formed the stable of artists that eventually moved with the gallery from our initial space in High Street to the new Peel Street premises in Collingwood,” he said.

It’s this focus on an artist collective that seems most central to Kick as a gallery part of the Melbourne art community. “I believe that we have all developed along the lines of a group that is focused primarily on creative expression and not on [our] ‘careers’ as artists,” he said. “This also matches the gallery’s own philosophy and evolution with the intention that we will gain recognition and success through our ongoing dedication and a refinement of the production and presentation of artists’ works and not on hype and exaggerated publicity.”

This is reflected in the importance Hoerner places on the location of the gallery. “Kick, when it was in Northcote, had a warmth to it and acted as artistic hub for many creative people,” he said, describing that area of Melbourne during 2002–2010 as “an artists’ enclave [with] cheap rent, lots of warehouses that artists lived in [and] a lot of overlap of who knew who”. The relocation of the gallery to its current Collingwood location was more due to circumstance than design, yet — perhaps serendipitously — seems to have signalled the gallery, which became a fully fledged commercial gallery in 2008, coming into its own. “In many ways, the years in Northcote had allowed the gallery and its artists to cut their teeth so to speak and to develop outside of the spotlight of the more established gallery precincts,” he said. “By the time that the decision to move had to be made, the artists and the gallery were ready to join the larger art world.” After having remained under the radar for seven and half years, Hoerner says, “we were perfectly situated to move away from the artist enclave and into an area that would allow more arts professionals and dedicated arts audiences to see the increasingly important exhibitions and works that were being exhibited with Kick”.

During November–December 2012, on show will be work by Michael Portley (until 3 November) and Geoff Pryor (6–24 November), with a group show running 27 November–22 December.

Images from top:

Kick Gallery, front room, 4 Peel Street, Collingwood, 2012.

Craig MacDonald, Litter, 2011, bronze, 29 x 10 x 40cm.

Tim Vagg, Le petit combattant Australien (The little Aussie battler), 2011, mixed media on French linen, 122 x 92cm.

Andrew Sibley, The Mirror No.10, 1976, Dulux on perspex and Indian ink on paper, 153 x 163 x 9cm.

Tim Vagg, Le Capitaine Moonlight; le pédé voleur (Captain Moonlight; queer bushranger), 2012, mixed media on polycotton, 122 x 92cm.

Andrew Sibley, The Scream, 1974, Dulux on perspex, 69 x 69 x 6cm.

Click here for further information on Kick Gallery .

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Issue 38