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Op Shop Exhibition @ Maitland Regional Art Gallery

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by Carolyn Hopping (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia, who enjoys writing about the things I love: travel, nature-based activities, the arts, spirituality and creative, fun activities for children.
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Art Inspired By The Wonderful World Of Opportunity Shops
Do you love op shopping? I certainly do. The thrill of discovering pre-loved treasures, quirky paraphenalia from the past or perhaps just an astoundingly good bargain gives me a buzz that I'm sure is similar to that of a gold prospector suddenly striking it rich. Call them what you will but opportunity shops, charity shops or second-hand stores are veritable treasure-troves, not only for the genuinely needy, but also for the avid bargain hunter and amateur urban archaeologists.

Weep by artist Louise Saxton
Weep by artist Louise Saxton

Maitland Regional Art Gallery
Maitland Regional Art Gallery

These days opportunity shops are well and truly part of the Australian urban landscape. Almost every suburb and country town has one, and they're one-stop shops for those of us who need to pinch our pennies, cash-strapped shopaholics, funky art students and lovers of vintage fashion and decor. Generally affiliated with well-respected charities and staffed by dedicated volunteers, they're shops that keep on giving, as all their profits go back into the community, helping the people who need it most: the poor, sick and disadvantaged.

Op shop exhibition at Maitland Regional Art Gallery
Op shop exhibition at Maitland Regional Art Gallery

Situated in the beautiful Hunter Valley, just 35 kilometres from Newcastle, Maitland is one of the most historic townships in New South Wales. Established by British colonists in the early nineteenth century it's a place that wears its past on its sleeve, and its down-town precincts are choc-a-block with palatial old buildings dating from the early colonial era and antique shops purveying all sorts of gorgeous bits and pieces from the 'good old days'. It's also a town that's renowned for its opportunity shops: not surprising for a place where past and present are so intimately entwined.

Celebrating Maitland's status as one of New South Wales' op shopping paradises, the Maitland Regional Art Gallery is currently hosting an exhibition called Op Shop. Curated by artist Fiona Davies, the exhibition consists of works by several individual artists and groups which specialise in up-cycling, the practice of utilising objects found in op shops in their artistic creations. I stumbled across the exhibition accidently during a leisurely wander along Maitland's High Street, trawling the city's legendary opportunity shops. Although I only planned on staying for half an hour, two hours later I was still there, contemplating the awesome creations that combine to form this unique and very quirky exhibition.

In Black and Gold Sarah Goffman works with recycled PET plastics, transforming them into objects of beauty.
In Black and Gold Sarah Goffman has transformed PET plastics into objects of exquisite beauty.

Memorial / Town Gloves by artist Fiona Davies
Memorial / Town Gloves by artist Fiona Davies

In total, fourteen Australian and international artists are represented in Op Shop. The exhibition covers a wide variety of media: sculpture, photography, multimedia, short films and installations. From Fiona Davies' monumental installations created from vintage buttons, hankies and gloves sourced in op-shops to the poignant photographs of Cath Bowen and David Sequeira's use of brilliant colour, each artist has interpreted the op shop motif in their own individual way, either incorporating 'found' objects in their work or finding inspiration in the unique ambience of these big-hearted local icons. Be sure to also look out for The Op Shop, a hilarious short film by Lee Rogers.

Fiona Davies artist
One of Fiona Davies' monumental works created from up-cycled vintage buttons.

Some of the works of Cath Bowen
Some of the works of Cath Bowen.

In conclusion, whether you're an art-lover or a fan of all things vintage and retro, this wonderful exhibition is one you simply must visit. If you haven't already been to Maitland Regional Art Gallery, you'll also be pleasantly surprised to discover all that it has to offer. In addition to several gallery spaces, it also houses a gift shop which sells lovely vintage wares as well as high quality creations by some of the Hunter Valley's foremost artisans and a cafe which always seems to be full of happy patrons.

The Maitland Regional Art Gallery gift-shop
The Maitland Regional Art Gallery gift-shop

Op Shop will be at the Maitland Regional Art Gallery until October 6th. For more information, visit the Maitland Regional Art Gallery website.

Some of the lovely vintage wares at the Maitland Regional Art Gallery gift-shop.
Some of the lovely vintage wares at the Maitland Regional Art Gallery gift-shop.

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Why? If you love op-shopping, then you'll love this cool art exhibition.
When: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am - 5pm
Phone: 02 4934 9859
Where: Maitland Regional Art Gallery, 230 High Street, Maitland NSW 2320
Cost: Free
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