Arts / Culture

Inside China Heights’ second ‘Artist Series’ dinner with Shaun Daniel Allen at Beau

Inside China Heights' second 'Artist Series' dinner with Shaun Daniel Allen at Beau

The air hung cold and damp as we scurried our way into Fracks Lane, in Surry Hills, last night; dodging droplets of rain and oncoming Ubers to reach the door of Beau. Through its glass front, warm light spilled out into the darkness of the early evening, and closing its front door behind me, I was greeted by the soft clatter of the open kitchen, and the smiling faces of our evening's hosts.

China Heights gallery, an independent contemporary art gallery in Sydney, has been in operation for 20 years – established in 2004 – and has been an essential and refreshingly authentic force in the NSW arts scene ever since. For the gallery's owners – Edward Woodley and Nina Treffkorn – the gallery is as much about the art on its walls as it is about the community of creatives they've brought together inside them.

Tonight's dinner was a testament to their shared vision of communal storytelling and creative collaboration – a coming together that has become ritualised in collaboration with Beau as their 'Artist Series' project.

Over a plant-based menu of rich wild mushroom ragù, bitter raddichio salad, greasy rounds of puffed bread and capped off by a refreshing and peppery rhubarb and strawberry granita, conversation flowed as freely as botanical drinks; artists bridging across disciplines from pottery to photography to music and painting.

Ceramic vessels hand-thrown by Ryan Der of Love Ryan Ceramics were dotted down the centre of the table, each hand-painted by the evening's spotlighted artist – Shaun Daniel Allen (Shal), who was dressed in head-to-toe Burberry for the occasion – in his signature line-work style. Some nestled seasonal fruits – vibrant orange persimmons and supple, purple figs – while others spilled with native flora, a nod, perhaps, to how the Yugambeh-born, Bundjalung artist's practice acts as a conduit for his relationship to Country.

Backdropping the evening's celebrations was a floor-to-ceiling tapestry from Shal, which sat opposite another line-work piece he's painted, this time directly onto the curvature of Beau's front windows.

As the evening wraps up, and we brace for the cold and wet of the night, the candles burn low and plates are scraped clean. Despite many of us being strangers to one another at the beginning of the meal, conversation never seemed to lull. It's a brilliant testament into the community China Heights have so lovingly curated around their gallery space and around the country at large.

I'd highly suggest you step through their space in Surry Hills to see for yourself Shal's new show Distant Familiarity over the coming weeks, or stop by tonight at 6pm for the exhibition's opening night.



Shaun Daniel Allen's solo exhibition Distant Familiarity opens at China Heights tonight, Friday 7 June 2024.

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