Milkshakes & Mixed Lollies - Alison Spence
I remember with mixed feelings growing up in a Goulburn version of the abandoned shop in William Street (catalogue number 19). There’s more than just a ring of familiarity about these words Alison Spence uses to describe places she refers to as ‘built ephemera’:
'Many corner stores were family businesses linked to the home. Local milk bars give the feeling of visiting someone's home. Smells of home cooked meals, distant sounds of a television, as the owner emerges from a doorway covered in a multi-coloured plastic strip curtain'.
Some of the details are different but the sense of the shop and our lives there is unmistakeably real. Our corner store was a community centre, a place people visited to buy potatoes and milk, fruit and cheese—and milkshakes and mixed lollies. And, annoyingly sometimes, just to visit, spending very little but wanting companionship and gossip to help pass the hours. Often they knocked on the back door after the shop closed to buy milk, saying church had finished late or offering many implausible excuses for the interruption. Then Woollies arrived and everything changed!
Alison Spence has been involved with PhotoAccess for some years. She has contributed work to group exhibitions but 'Milkshakes & Mixed Lollies' is her first solo exhibition in the HUW DAVIES GALLERY. It was worth the wait. Spence has taken what might be thought of as commonplace subject matter and created a world of images evoking familiar memories and a little regret. This is more than a catalogue of unfashionable, out of date building styles and advertising slogans. 'Milkshakes & Mixed Lollies' is a reminder of the small things that make up community and the risks that come from a way of thinking that insists only the biggest and newest things are best.
Spence’s mix of black and white and colour images works very effectively to distinguish the built form of a vanishing genre from the beckoning images and words inviting people to buy. I like the flat, near to abstract quality of the advertising slogans and, unlike their more contemporary counterparts, the modest claims they make for the products they promote: ‘Enjoy Coca Cola’, ‘Drink Tarax Icy Cold’ and ‘Fresh NSW Milk’. There’s something to be said for simplicity, but would this approach stand up to the ‘sophistication’ of marketing today?
PhotoAccess is delighted to share Alison Spence’s 'Milkshakes & Mixed' Lollies with visitors to the HUW DAVIES GALLERY at the Manuka Arts Centre.