Pop up in progress: Undergroundx4

It’s strange to visit an exhibition space before an exhibition. The cellar underneath Tongue + Groove Interiors on Smith Street doesn’t look like much –it has a low-ceiling, dark bluestone walls, and a dusty floor. It is usually the shop’s storage and warehouse space (‘It was a great opportunity for a spring clean!’ says Ross). But by the sounds of it, the retailer’s MIDF exhibit, entitled Underground x 4, will completely transform the cellar into a showcase of bright local talent.

“We wanted our involvement in the festival to focus on Melbourne designers” says T+G’s Ross Hines. “We stock and work quite closely with these four guys, and they all work with dramatically different materials.

Mark Pascal is a Melbourne lighting legend. Mance Design are responsible for some of the most radical lighting over the last 10 years, such as their famous ‘hedgehog’ flocked sticks. Greg Bonasera is one Melbourne’s best ceramicists – we’ve stocked his ceramics for years and he’s just launched a brand new lighting product called Clement, which is hanging porcelain twigs on stainless steel, with a bulb in the centre. Porcelain glows, so it’s going to be absolutely stunning. Then you’ve got Volker Haug, with his ‘Antler’ – that’s really stunning… he does almost industrial-style lighting. So their all working in different media, all have very different personalities, some of them are established and some are just emerging. But all of them are true innovators” says Ross.

“So we thought that if the theme is Strength in Numbers, and we’ve got four Melbourne lighting designers, let’s throw them all into our cellar, and just stir it around and see what comes up!”

The exhibition will be very intimate, and you won’t be wandering as you would in an art gallery –half the cellar will be cordoned off and feature delicate lighting installations by two of the designers, and the other two designers’ pieces will be more interactive. Pieces will be viewed from above, below and from the side so prepare to stoop and squeeze past your fellow patrons.

With the exception of Marc Pascal, who was delivering his pieces to be installed when I visited the space, Ross confides that he’s not exactly sure what some of the participants will produce for the exhibition. “That’s half the excitement, that there is no plan – all these guys have a track record of producing fantastic work, so I have complete confidence in all of them. Some of them must work better under pressure than others!”

Underground x 4 opens on July 17 downstairs at Tongue and Groove, 84 Smith Street, Collingwood. Admission is free!

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