Interview with Luke Matthews from the Gorker Gallery

June 28th, 2008

Ever wondered what its like to run a Gallery? Paul Imseih sits down with Gorker Gallery Director Luke Matthews and finds out.

There’s some great graf and street art in Melbourne as many of our Design Federation regulars know. Here at Design Federation, we’ve been strong advocates for street artists/designers, especially those in Melbourne who are making a name for themselves around the world. It’s getting more (and better) publicity and some local councils in Melbourne are now creating spaces for street artists to safely create works for public display.

With this interest in street art, it was inevitable that a cottage industry would grow up around it – guided tours, books and of course galleries. It might seem incongruous that “street” art would find itself in a gallery. However in the case of Gorker Gallery, a new gallery that’s just opened in a really interesting part of Fitzroy, the idea seems to have found a natural home. A half-way home, if you like. I got a chance to speak to Luke recently about the Gallery, its current exhibition (The Forty Thieves) and the upcoming show, starting on 3rd July by fineliner artist, Nate Trapnell.

Hi Luke, can you tell us a bit about how you created Gorker Gallery?

LM – Well, I found the space about a year ago. I was just living around the corner and saw the factory up for lease and had been wanting to start a small business, a gallery in Melbourne. I saw the space and instantly knew that it was the right place. Then I spent about 6-8 months renovating the space into a gallery which has been quite a mission while trying to work as well! I love the location – Fitzroy is such a diverse area, you know, for arts.

And who runs the gallery?

LM – I’m the director of the gallery but I also have Nate Trapnell and Timba as curators and Lauren Biedrzycki as our Public Relations manager.

What is it about the space that you liked?

LM – Well, I really liked that it was a warehouse. I could keep the aesthetics of this old warehouse. I thought I had a lot of character – I loved the feeling of it. It was something I was instantly drawn to.


Ben Frost – Naughty Street Artist Needs Severe Punishment (Top Left)
Benzo – An Eye for an Eye (Bottom Left)
Biddy Maroney – Net (Top Right)
Bonsai – Quail (Bottom Right)

What was it that interested you about starting a gallery?

LM – I’m very passionate about art, I love art and culture and street art. It’s something I really wanted to focus on – the street art, and bringing some of the best street artists from around the world into the gallery. I see street art in this day as being mainstream art and I suppose the art world doesn’t see it that way. It [street art] gets tainted as vandalism/graffiti so we want to give it some credibility, allow young artists to feel like their work is important. Personally, I think that street art and culture in Australia is just as important as indigenous culture in some respects. Street art and street culture is very important to society.

How did you put the current exhibition together (“Forty Thieves”, winding up on 3rd July)?

LM – We invited artists that we have had experience with or that they know of. We sent an invitation to them and told them what size we wanted in a piece [all the pieces are 15″X15″X2″].

Let’s talk about the opening night for a second. It was a huge event, spilling out onto the street. You must have got some great coverage.

LM – Yeah, the Age are doing an editorial on us which is great! And on the internet, the blogs have been fantastic. The response has been great.

The internet has a pretty important role in promoting street art. How do you see it work?

LM – Well, I think the internet is a fantastic forum for undergournd things like street art to get out there. It’s not screened so the government can’t track it. Also, for people in remote areas who don’t get access to street art, it gives them encouragement and ideas. I think the internet is a great tool to getting access in remote areas.

Ghostpatrol – King Zarcon Battle

The depth of the underground scene in Melbourne is just mindboggling. What do you think the reasons for this are?

LM – the youth culture in Melbourne revolves around hip-hop and skateboarding. I don’t know why it’s deeper in Melbourne – there’s also a great scene in WA and Brisbane. Maybe it’s because Melbourne has allowed some legal spaces for graf art. I don’t know if there is a difference between cities in Australia but I definitely know that Melbourne is cracking at the moment. For example, in the current exhibition, we’ve got about 70% local artists.

There is a fairly strong female contingent in the Forty Thieves exhibition.

LM – Yeah, about half the artists in Forty Thieves are women. I don’t think gender comes into it because female street artists are as good as male street artists.

You’ve got a new exhibition opening next week called “The Fine Line”. What’s the story around this one?

LM – Well this show is from a guy who’s been a big influence on the gallery [Nate Trapnell who is also one of the curators for Gorker]. I love Nathan’s work. He grew up in Kuranda in far north Queensland. He works in fineline, meaning he uses 0.5 fineliners and does illustrations of street themes and cars. It’s a different medium and captures street art just fantastically. He draws some amazing detail in these fineliners. These are really big pieces; I hate to think how many fineliners he’s gone through to put this together. It must be something like 20,000! His works show that street artists are fine artists and street art should be recognised as fine art.

Nate Holmes Trapnell – The Forty Thieves

Taking that fine art point, it’s clear that there’s been a classical training and influence from mainstream art or “classical” art. This training clearly underpins a lot of the works. Do you think this is one of the main differences between the street art you show in the gallery and the works you’d see on the streets?

LM – well, it amazed me the different mediums the artists used. It’s everything from cardboard, stone to timber. A lot of these artists have been schooled yet they do still work on walls, outside…

and they’re pushing the art in a completely different direction top where it’s gone in the past…

LM – oh totally, without a doubt they are. It’s really important to show they can work in different mediums

So where do you see Gorker in 12 months?

LM – I’d like to keep exhibiting street artists, Melbourne based artists. And also show some talent from overseas. We might even travel with Gorker to other states, possibly overseas. We’d like to take Gorker and its sponsors overseas.

That’s great. Best of luck!

LM – Thanks mate, good to speak with you.

Kid Zoom – Untitled

Gorker Gallery is current showing The Forty Thieves until this Wednesday 2nd July. Don’t miss it, it’s a cracking show. The Fine Line, works by Nate Trapnell will show from 3rd July with opening night party from 6-9pm. Get down there!

Gorker Gallery
395 Gore Street
Fitzroy, Vic, 3065

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  1. Liam Gibbs says:

    Great work Design Federation. This is the best interview yet! Keep up the great work. I enjoyed the read….

  2. jumpy says:

    i wish this Gallery was in sydney, ive been talking up the Forty Thieves show to everyone.. great interview

  3. fitzroyalty says:

    Great interview. The opening was a brilliant result for social network marketing. Who needs the Age? The blogs got the news out. Read the Fitzroyalty review of the opening –

  4. D. Baysari says:

    what a fantastic interview, def one of the best on this site!

  5. brooke says:

    Gorker Gallery has a new shop opening Thursday July 2nd.
    Kelly Thomson, a kiwi illustrator, from 6.30 – 8.30
    Free beer, great crowd and a good night!
    Head down on your bike

  6. Informative and interesting interview. I love the gallery as well, really brings out the beauty of art.

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