As arts cooperative Paper Mountain prepares to close the doors forever at its Northbridge gallery, it has hosted one of its most successful exhibits ever.

‘Analogue Memories and Digital Daydreams’, created by a small collaborative of emerging young artists, drew a record crowd on its opening night, with artworks designed to inspire fresh questions about the modern world.

The collection of thought-provoking sculptures, paintings, drawings, silk screen-prints, textile and digital art all centred on a common theme: questioning the digital world.

More than 250 people came through the doors on opening night, to the delight of the creators behind the event.

The exhibition was the brainchild of ECU Art student Isaac Huggins, who roped in a crew of like-minded artist friends to bring it to life and watch it change into something even bigger.

With plans to graduate next year, Isaac had been planning to add a solo exhibition to his resume when the idea dropped.

“It just clicked that I had three mates who would be pretty keen on joining up for a group exhibition instead,” Isaac said.

He pitched the idea to classmate Jordan Botello and friends Conor Macgrath and Jack Richards. The other artists didn’t know each other before collaborating, but they found their styles meshed well together.

“When Isaac hit me up about doing the exhibition earlier this year, it was an instant no-brainer,” Jack said. “We’ve been mates since an early age and we’ve both been able to bounce off each other artistically while we were developing individual styles over the years.”

On top of prints and screen-printed T-shirts, the group sold a number of artworks, with one of Conor’s selling for $2000.

“We had to run down and stock up the bar a few times,” Isaac said. “We all got a lot of sales with our merch.”

The night was complete with sets from local DJs, Masschill, Aidan Kurt, Neesnu and Krypsis.

“I didn’t expect it to be that big,” Jordan said. “It was absolutely insane, it was wild, it was crazy. It was awesome to see such a huge group of people come out and check out the artwork.

“We wanted a theme to it where people of all ages could just come and have a good time, listen to some music, have some beers and have like a community sense to it.”

Artist Jordan Botello and a friend in front of his artwork
Aidan Kurt, DJ and event emcee for the opening night.

The show included over 99 works, covering all the walls in the two-room gallery space. Paper Mountain Artistic Director Beth Scholey says it was a fantastic show to have at the end of Paper Mountain’s run in the venue.

“Jack, Jordan, Conor and Isaac fully activated the space, utilising our area to talk about our connections in the digital world and who is watching, all done in a humorous, poetic and often sardonic way,” Beth said.

“People who are passionate about arts in any form, who are unsure about their work, will always have a space, wherever we are, at Paper Mountain.”

Senior arts lecturer at ECU Paul Uhlmann also made an appearance on the opening night, with a speech to congratulate the artists on what they’d pulled together.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve addressed a crowd as large as this, which I think is a testament to the show and the strength of the connections that the artists have built,” Paul said.

“I think this show reaffirms the need for moments like this, where humans come together and interact and spontaneous things can happen.”

To complete the group, Isaac also recruited the skills of his grandfather, an artist of 30 years, Don Byrne.

“It was a goal of mine to also exhibit with my granddad in his lifetime, so heaps of goals all ticked off in one, which has been a really good, really positive experience,” Isaac said.

Don paints using iron ore from the Pilbara and Kimberley regions, which he mixes into his paints to create authentic landscapes.

Isaac used the exhibition as an opportunity to collaborate on an old piece, adding the digital elements of surveillance cameras to a scene of the Australian outback.

Art collaboration between Isaac Huggins and grandfather Don Byrne

“He gave me a painting for Christmas one year, and it’s been sitting in my studio upstairs. I figured I’d be able to add a little element in there that would flip the meaning quite drastically, so I ran the idea past him and he was more than happy.”

The young artists have their individual goals moving forward, but they agree they will be collaborating again in the future. 

“I think there is an immersive coherency between Isaac, Jack, Jordan and myself. And if it weren’t for Isaac my paintings would still be half finished, unseen pieces,” Conor said.

“Maybe an Analogue memories and Digital Daydreams 2!” 

Isaac is already thinking of future events.

“I’m thinking warehouse parties, more exhibitions… I’m going to be taking over the contemporary arts club at uni this semester so I was thinking of teaming up with other universities as well and getting a few more students and creating a platform for emerging artists and mixing the crowd all together.”

Analogue Memories and Digital Daydreams will no doubt be remembered as a landmark event in the artists’ early careers, but for them, the real success is in getting to share their art with the world.

“I just wanna do some f#cking art bro. It’s all about having some f#cking creativity and sharing that sh#t.” Jordan said.

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