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From Parramatta to Paddington: artists paint their visions of suburbia

Megan Monte and Josephine Skinner, two 30-something curators, met five years ago in Sydney suburbia. It was at the Campbelltown Arts Centre, where Monte was the curator of an exhibition called The Social and Skinner was one of the artists with a video installation.

Monte, as a curator who had grown up in Campbelltown, knew the breadth and depth of artistic talent in the western suburbs of Sydney. Bristol-born Skinner was living in Bondi and working as a curator at Stills Gallery, an eastern suburbs institution which for 26 years as a commercial gallery focused on selling Australian photomedia, until it closed last July.

Now the very place they met, suburban Sydney, will be the focus of a new exhibition, Suburbia, in the 270 square metre space where Skinner worked, that was Stills. It will open this Saturday as Cement Fondu, a new exhibition and live arts space. If Paddington wouldn't come to Parramatta, they decided to bring Parramatta to Paddington; or at least the works of four artists from Parramatta Artist Studios, as well as a host of artists who focus on suburban themes, from the kitsch to the quirky.

The curatorial duo had the idea of "looking beyond our own backyard" in bringing the artworks of 15 artists together.

"Everybody can relate to their idea of suburbia, whether it's through movies or television or their own experience, everyone has a sense of what it means to them," says Skinner. The inaugural show is a vision of suburbia many Sydneysiders will relate to: from photos of red brick veneer and red-roofed homes to the things you would find in their backyards, from sun lounges on fake lawn to shrubs and pot plants.

It features paintings of 'outback suburbia' by indigenous Tangentyere artists Nerine Tilmouth, Louise Daniels and Elizabeth Nampitjinpa; new audio works by Sweatshop Western Sydney Literacy Movement (which you can listen to while lounging on the fake grass); ceramic work of familiar Aussie icecreams, Eskies and snacks by Melbourne artist Kenny Pittock; and larger-than-life photographic wallpapers by Parramatta Artist Studios resident Garry Trinh, amongst others.

It will run until April 29, and will be followed by three other shows this year. Cement Fondu's arts store is crammed with colourful crocheted objects and a playful approach to art souvenirs such as kangaroo hides and cockatoo letter boxes.

"It's a real nostalgia trip which will bring back thoughts of your own suburban memories," says Monte.

In addition to its main gallery, Cement Fondu offers a project space for public workshops, artist residencies and emerging artist shows. Parramatta Artist Studios resident Rosie Deacon has worked on a collaborative project in the project space with six artists with intellectual disabilities from Sydney's Studio A.