Taking art underground

Wolf Sheep Arthouse creator Erik Van Kobra

Wolf Sheep Arthouse creator Erik Van Kobra

Wolf Sheep Arthouse a hidden space of creation, presentation

Beneath the soles of the feet that walk Government Street, a group of artists huddle in a small concrete room, a space they call the Wolf Sheep Arthouse.

The new home for a rather new collective of artists, located in the basement of Trounce Alley, looks somewhat bare and unfinished in the wake of its first art show earlier this month.

Normally “the walls are jacked with art,” says Adam Foeller, the event manager for the Wolf Sheep collective of 12 artists. “It was chaotic working toward the show.”

Since forming in January and acquiring the basement Arthouse space, the collective got busy pumping out works for their first show, “It’s Deadly Outside,” held in an unused room of the Atrium building on Yates Street on Feb. 12 and 13. It was a surprising success, collective founder Erik Van Kobra says, with about 30 pieces selling.

The collective is a group of artists in their 20s and 30s who have wanted to show their work, but couldn’t find a gallery that would show their style. The edgy, urban, graffiti- and tattoo-inspired works don’t jibe with traditional galleries that are so common in Victoria, Van Kobra says.

“It obviously has a very distinctive flavour, since we do our work here,” he says, showing the small creative space where up to four artists will work at one time. Often, they’ll work together to create a single piece with four signatures in the corner.

The Wolf Sheep collective is working on a set of works for its second show, called “100%,” set for this summer. The idea is for 100 per cent of the materials to be recycled, reclaimed or reused. From each gallery show the collective does, 20 per cent of sales revenue goes to a selected group of charities, as does 10 per cent of sales from the Arthouse space.

LifeCycles Project Society and Victoria Cool-Aid Society’s Every Step Counts will split a $1,500 cheque from the Atrium show. Much of the collective’s success comes from the artists’ dedication to accessibility for consumers, Van Kobra says.

By combining studio and gallery space, buyers are within earshot of a piece’s creator. It’s why he dubbed the under-the-street space the “emporium of awesome.”

“We’re trying to bridge the gap between what Victoria thinks of art, and what they haven’t seen.”

ecardone@vicnews.com