When film maker and photographer Sarah Watt and her husband, the actor William McInnes, moved to West Footscray in 1990, they did so because it was “the cheapest place to live”.
“The skies are really wide. So, you get a great feel for space,” she says.
We are speaking at the launch of her latest exhibition titled simply 3012. This is West Footscray’s postcode. The exhibition is at West Footscray’s stylish Post industrial Design.
On this perfect Melbourne spring day, where the sky is as blue as it is wide, local residents and friends’ of the couple have crammed in to celebrate one of their own, a talented and favourite sister.
Watt has secondary stages breast cancer. She looks beautiful and radiant. Her wide smile never leaves her face as she greets friends and fans of her work, her husband never far from her side.
Watt is probably best known for her feature films. In 2005, she won the Australian Film Institute Best Director award for her film Look Both Ways. In 2009, she released her second film, My Year Without Sex.
“Films take so long to make. I like being able to take photos,” she says.
Anyone familiar with West Footscray would instantly recognise her images. There is a photo of the op shop on Barkly street; the skeletal brick remains of the old Dunlop tyre factory on Rupert street; the Uncle Toby’s silo on Sunshine Road; the unused train carriages resting at Tottenham station that look bleak by day but come alive at night when rows of lights – like thousands of fairy lights illuminate the tracks; the airplane at Central West; Indian saris on mannequins from the Indian shops on Barkly street – classic images of West Footscray.
“They (the images) open your eyes to the everyday that is around you. And the beauty of light and how it works on buildings”, says local resident Andrew.
Watt paints over her photos with acrylic paint. Sometimes she uses crayons or coloured pencils. It gives the photos greater texture and depth and the illusion of a painting or a sketch rather than a photo.
All around me people are reacting with delight at images they recognise from their home. One woman, standing next to an image of 501 Receptions on Barkly Street, is laughing at the centre’s slogan, A Touch Of Class.”
“It’s funny. Could you imagine getting married here?” she asks. Many have.
Sarah exhibited another series of images at Post Industrial Design several months ago as part of this year’s Victoria’s State of Design Festival. It is not surprising that Watt would choose a new gallery close to her beloved home to exhibit her work.
I ask Watt if she has any final words she would like to share for this story. Unsurprisingly, she generously credits gallery owner Mary Long for opening the little gallery and shop, and for her contribution to West Footscray.
“Mary, has achieved a bit of a breakthrough with this place. She’s showing that art and design can have a function. She’s gathered a little gang of people from the area, a collective of people who work on all the exhibitions together.”
The gallery is also selling her calendar, 3012/2012, which features images from her exhibition.
I leave Watt sitting with her mother, Anna. Her husband strides towards her, a tender look on his face. On one perfect day, everything she loved merged; family, community and art.
Sarah Watt, with husband William McInnes and artist Trish Holleley
Art by Sarah Watt Uncle Tobys and Dunlop
Sitting Around by Sarah Watt
A Touch of Class by Sarah Watt
Dunlop by Sarah Watt
Sarah Watt’s brave battle with cancer ended with her death on 4th November 2011. Her attendance at the launch of her exhibition was to be her last public appearance.Her photographic tribute to her home is made more poignant because she knew she was leaving it behind.Update:
3012 Exhibition by Sarah Watt has been extended to the end of November.
Story originally printed on http://www.weekendnotes.com/melbourne/