PARI for artists: Parramatta's first independent contemporary art space

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PARI, an independent contemporary art space opened this month at Parramatta with a simple inaugural ceremony. An enthusiastic crowd of friends, supporters and families of the exhibiting artists welcomed the initiative where new artists can find a space to exhibit their work for a fee. This was possible with a $50,000 grant from CREATE NSW, the state’s art policy and funding body.


PARI which is an acronym for the Parramatta Artists Run Initiative, also coincidentally means an angel in the Hindi language. It was no mean feat by the five young directors of PARI – artists Kalanjay Dhir, Tian Zhang, Rebecca Gallo, Justine Youssef and Alexander Tanazefti – to make a case for this grant.

The first show, 10 Degrees Hotter, curated by Kalanjay Dhir and Tian Zhang, brings together ten artists with a connection to Sydney’s west. After the first few shows which will be curated in-house, the directors wish to program exhibitions from open call-outs.

 Directors of PARI - artists Kalanjay Dhir, Tian Zhang, Rebecca Gallo, Justine Youssef and Alexander Tanazefti
Directors of PARI – artists Kalanjay Dhir, Tian Zhang, Rebecca Gallo, Justine Youssef and Alexander Tanazefti

Kalanjay, a young artist of Indian-Indonesian background, has a close connection with Parramatta, having lived and worked here all his life. He describes himself as “an artist, musician and failed viral content creator exploring near-futurism, pan-Asian spirituality, popular culture, and mythological technologies”.

The idea came about last year when Kalanjay met with the other young artists who jointly founded PARI. The need for such a space in Parramatta, where new artists could exhibit their works, was rife. If they could receive artists’ fees for exhibiting their works, it is a win-win situation for the artist, as well as the public, who can enjoy creative works of new talents.

Haines & Hinterding’s audio-visual-olfactory work
Haines & Hinterding’s audio-visual-olfactory work

Speaking to Indian Link, Kalanjay, still jubilant from the response to the inauguration of PARI, explained, “There was a specific grant of $50,000 for Western Sydney Making Spaces from the state government. We did not have a plan or space yet but we wrote a rigorous application and fortunately, they gave us the money.” He graciously acknowledged the support of Parramatta Council who gave them space at Hunter Street on a subsidised rent.

It was in Christmas 2018 that the directors of PARI had the first meeting and in less than a year, this artists’ space became a reality. Additional money for the fit-out of PARI was funded by a crowd-funding campaign which was oversubscribed and raised $11,000.

All directors are volunteers and the grant money will go towards exhibiting artists’ fees, programming fees, rent and general administration costs. They hope to make a workshop and tool library with some extra funding in the coming days.

The inaugural exhibition of works in 10 Degrees Hotter is a reference to a typical summer day in Parramatta when temperatures can be ten degrees hotter than the eastern suburbs. Kalanjay says that the directors felt that this name was a metaphor for the “energy that emerges out of the western suburbs and PARI as a way of keeping it there”.

The woven art at the window of PARI by Aunty Kerrie Kenton is titled A Thousand Tears. It represents the loss of land and the stolen generation of the Indigenous people of Australia. Kalanjay feels that art is important to connect to the local Aboriginal community. Aunty Kerrie had provided the Welcome to Country at the inauguration.

Aunty Kerrie Kenton's woven art, titled A Thousand Tears.
Aunty Kerrie Kenton’s Aboriginal art.

Inside the gallery, Nicole Barakat’s work is made with organic materials and natural dyes from Penrith Lakes, a site that has seen many changes over the years from a plain to a quarry and now soon-to-be aquatic park. Haines & Hinterding’s audio-visual-olfactory work produces live sound by converting the sun’s radiation through two cylindrical antennae, with an added dimension of smells produced with chemical compounds.

Nicole Barakat's art made of organic material and natural dyes
Nicole Barakat’s art made of organic material and natural dyes

Food is the theme of Mechelle Bounpraseuth’s work, served up in ceramic replica bowls of mi goreng, pho, chicken feet and Asian sweets. Shivanjani Lal’s work is a video diptych, while E J Son’s ceramic work grapples with the complexities of masculinity through the motif of eggs.

These and other artists’ works will be exhibited at PARI until 23 November.

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Jyoti Shankar
Jyoti Shankar
Jyoti Shankar is a freelance writer and sustainability professional, who is passionate about nature

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