Thank you to the Geelong Advertiser’s Margaret Linley and Cormac Hanrahan

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Article text about Queenscliff Gallery & Workshop (QG&W)

State of the Art

Queenscliff is fast earning itself a reputation as an art destination. As another gallery opens its doors, Margaret Linley takes a look at what’s going on in the seaside hamlet.

Accident was chance for owners to remake lives CREATIVES Theo and Soula Mantalvanos lived quietly and contemplatively on Tasmania’s east coast for four months as they considered the big “what next?” question.

They had been working together in their Collingwood warehouse, he as a graphic designer, she as an artist, when the fitness ball Soula was sitting on burst and she landed abruptly on the concrete floor.

Nine years of excruciating pain followed; the first half of that passed before Soula was eventually diagnosed with pudendal neuralgia, a debilitating damage to the largest nerve in the pelvis.

“It’s hard to believe that (the ball) could cause so much trouble,” Soula said. The pain has been intense and unending and the management of it has involved orthopaedic surgeons, chiropractors, psychologists, pain specialists, and therapies such as the Alexander technique, water therapy and more.

Something needed to change. Soula couldn’t continue to hope she could slot herself back into her previous life.

We plucked ourselves out of our lives because you can’t see it until you take yourself out,” Soula said. “It was scary as well as amazing.”

What the Melbourne couple saw was the chance to remake themselves as gallery owners and now, six months into their new roles at Queenscliff Gallery & Workshop, they are part of what some see as Queenscliffs emergence as an arts destination.

The couple had been involved in their community in Melbourne and wanted that same sense of belonging and cohesion in their new home. By choosing their own point of difference -a focus on printmaking – they hoped there would be space for them to co-exist with other creative people in the town.

“We introduced ourselves to others here and said, ‘This is us’, and they said, ‘Hurry up and do this, it’ll only be good for Queenscliff,” Theo said.

“Hand on my heart, there has not been one negative thing.

“It’s been overwhelming acceptance and excitement.”

The gallery is in the old Wesleyan church, which had been home to Barwon Booksellers and is now filled with works by artists such as Melinda Harper, Jim Pavlidis and Paul Compton.

There are also local artists featured, such as Joel Wolter, Andrew Gunnell, Graham Peebles and Anita Iacovella. The couple like to encourage emerging artists such as Olivia Mazzone.

“We’ve got more than 20 artists represented here,” Theo said.

“More than half of them we know personally. We’re very proud of our collection here.”

“When we told them (artist friends) of our idea, they said, ‘Yep, take our work’,” Soula said.

A new mezzanine structure has been built, creating more wall space for the downstairs gallery and a delightful upstairs workshop area where life drawing classes and workshops by visiting artists are held.

A huge printing press in a room at the back of the church is available for artists to use.

Queenscliff Gallery & Workshop, 81 Hesse St. For details about workshops. phone 5258 4927. Also see Soula’s work as an advocate for chronic pelvic pain at pudendalnerve.com.au