Jon Campbell

I had one of the first exhibitions at West Space, above the Bulldog Café in the Footscray Mall. You had to walk through the café and up the stairs at the back to enter the gallery. It was a pretty greasy place, and I never bought any food there. It had a strong deep-fried smell about it. This was my first experience of sitting my own show, and while I was realistic about the number of local punters (never mind punters from across town) that might come, it was an eye opener, the lack of patronage. I had had some success in previous years showing in institutions and a commercial gallery—this didn’t mean much out west. My big fear was that I would sit all day, and no one would come. While this didn’t eventuate, on several days I had one person. I got my picture on the front of the local paper; this will bring ’em in, I thought—nuh-uh. I spent time reading, scrutinising my paintings in detail and looking out the big window that overlooked the mall. An old girlfriend came in just to see if it was really me. The toilet for the café was right next to the little table and chair that I would sit at each day. On several occasions, some of the café patrons would leave the most horrible smell that would drift into the gallery. I shouldn’t have been surprised, given the fare they were serving downstairs. They would just stare weirdly at me, thinking, what the hell is this?