Arts / Culture

Pass~Port Gallery’s ‘Above Control’ show muses on the dualities of femininity

Pass~Port Gallery's 'Above Control' show opines on the duality of femininity

If you're a Darlinghurst native (as I am), you've probably strolled past the unassuming shopfront of Pass~Port, a store and gallery space tucked snugly into a paved corner of Oxford Square.

The first flagship store from the Australian skateboarding brand, it's become a point of confluence for local creatives, catering to a community both embedded and outside of the Sydney skate scene through its one-room gallery space.

When I visit Pass~Port on a blustery Thursday evening for the opening of their latest group exhibition, Above Control, the space is jostling with people, each patiently passing through the gallery's arched entryway to view works by artists Emily McGuire, Audrey Newton and Caitlin Aloisio Shearer, as curated by Chloe Borich.

Above Control is a show that "wrestles with the dominant affirmations, analogies and rituals" that define and earmark the contemporary female experience. In her show notes, Borich explains that the show was intended to "negotiate ideas of obsession and desire, validation and vulnerability, resilience and fragility" through diverse mediums like installation, soft sculpture and painting.

As you enter the gallery space, softly pink canvases from Caitlin Shearer present surreal feminine forms, while a beguiling wall of wilting roses by Audrey Newton protrude en masse from their vertical plaster garden bed. Knotted soft sculptures from Emily McGuire – like Babe you've got this (2024) – take hyper-positive women's slogan shirts and manipulate them like thread, while her hanging textile sculpture loomed weightlessly in the room's corner like a spectre.

I was privileged to speak with the show's curator, Borich, about the exhibition – which will be open to visitors at Pass~Port Store & Gallery until 14 April – and about her process of curation, what visitors can expect, and what connected her to the space and to these artists.


What drew you to the practices of Emily, Audrey, and Caitlin? Do you have any specific memories of the first times you encountered their work?

I was drawn to each artist individually and at different points in time. I’ve known Emily for many years, she was a tutor of mine at university and from there we became firm friends. I curated some weavings of hers into my first ever show, so watching her practice evolve has been such a privilege. I first encountered Audrey’s work some time ago at Firstdraft and it has remained in my mind ever since. Her rose installations originally came to her in a dream, they are deeply poetic yet grotesque and that isn’t an easy contradiction to resolve. Caitlin is the artist I came across most recently online. I was instantly drawn in by her playful, witty depictions of women and their bodies pressed up against and crossing the threshold of their canvases.

Perhaps what unites all three artists is their authenticity and conviction in their approach to materiality so early on in their careers. Talking with Emily, Audrey and Caitlin leading up to the show, it was like connecting dots between their personalities and disciplines, uncovering the varied reasons why they make what they make. They’re each entirely unique yet connected by these undercurrents of collective experience and the ability to articulate it conceptually, and then in the same breath, laugh about it.

Left: Caitlin Aloisio Shearer 10,000 Steps (2023). Right: Exhibition curator, Chloe Borich, at Pass~Port Store & Gallery.

Left: Caitlin Aloisio Shearer 10,000 Steps (2023). Right: Exhibition curator, Chloe Borich, at Pass~Port Store & Gallery.


In your show notes, you touch on this idea of the “contemporary female experience”. Is there a particular part of contemporary femininity that you are most eager for the show to shine a light on?

I don’t know if there’s one singular part of contemporary female experience that I was hoping to focus on, rather it’s the layers of it all. Nuance is important to me. I think what I see in the works is a harnessing of pervasive dualities: soft/strong, obsession/apathy, validation/vulnerability, real/surreal. When these tensions are distilled in a room, if only momentarily, what happens when we engage with them? How do they contribute to the ways we see and define ourselves, and each other?


You’ve curated a couple of art shows now – from Limbs at Jerico Contemporary to your debut show back in Brisbane These Clothes Mean Something. How do you go about the process of curation?

Often, it starts with one artwork and then multiples from there, though it can be either. Images and words hold equal importance to me. I’m constantly looking at art and reading about art, but also looking and reading about other things, and then crossing my fingers for a flicker of an epiphany to strike.

Pass~Port Gallery's 'Above Control' show, photographed by Pass~Port (left) and Magdalene Shapter (right).

Left: Photograph by Pass~Port. Right: Photograph by Magdalene Shapter.


What made Pass~Port the right space for this show?

I’ve wanted to do a show at Pass~Port ever since the gallery space materialised there. I love that visitors walk through the store and then happen upon this luminous white room, which you physically step up and into through an oversized arched doorway. Trent Evans, who founded Pass~Port, is a real advocate of the arts and I admire him for leaning in and bringing the gallery into being with emerging artists and practitioners in mind. He’s collaborated on collections with numerous artists over the years, so it’s a very natural alignment and a special addition to Oxford Street.


What do you hope people will take away from the experience of Above Control?

I hope that people discover an artist who maybe haven’t heard of before. There are so many talented emerging artists in Australia, and these are three of them. There’s also a beautiful poem I commissioned by Claire Summers to accompany the show, designed by Pip Green, which I hope people will take with them as a physical reminder of encountering these moving works.


Above Control will be open to the public at Pass~Port Store & Gallery from 14 March until 14 April 2024.


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Cover image photographed by Magdalene Shapter.