One fashions bark, fabric and sand into matt, earth-based artworks decorated with splashes of paint. The other produces glossy works that gain extra sheen with the addition of gold and silver leaf.

Yet artists Shane Dunn and Steven Vella share common ground.

My work is very matt, Steven’s is very gloss, so in many ways we both thought they were quite complementary to each other, Dunn said in the lead-up to the abstract show he is staging with Vella in Paddington.

Often subtle connections like that subliminally or subconsciously make sense to people. They may not actually realise it, but it just sort of makes sense to people.

The description could just as easily encapsulate the pair’s relationship.

Though the Paddington show will be their first together -“ and Dunn’s exhibition debut -“ the artists have shared a connection since meeting at the Phoenix Bar in Darlinghurst in 1990.

It was the spark for a very intense eight months during which Dunn and Vella, pictured left, formed a friendship that would provide enduring artistic inspiration.

When Mackay-born Vella returned home later in 1990 and then overseas for an extended stint, he and Dunn remained in contact.

Vella’s return to Sydney in 1996 would bring another chance encounter that led to Dunn securing costume design work with some of the local drag scene’s leading lights.

It was just before Sleaze Ball [in 1996]. Shane lent me a costume -“ the bustle -“ because the theme was -˜Voodoo Circus’. And [drag diva] Verushka [Darling] spotted me and thought, -˜What a fabulous boy wearing a bustle and train’, and we became good friends.

Dunn has since designed for Darling, alongside other drag icons including Claire de Lune.

It has taken longer for him to put his earth-based artwork on display.

I have sold quite a few paintings over the years, but I must admit I’ve always been quite reluctant [to exhibit] because it’s the whole schmooze factor at exhibitions that I’m not really comfortable with, Dunn said.

He admitted Steven’s urging was a key reason for his Ordered Chaos show, which opens with Vella’s Elements exhibition next Tuesday and should include traces of the friendship that inspired it.

There’s probably really a lot of subliminal things that occur because we’ve known each other for so long and we’ve related to each other from virtually the moment we met, Dunn said.

Like all good, deep friendships, there is this exchange. It may not be conscious, but you influence each other to some degree.

Shane Dunn’s Ordered Chaos and Steven Vella’s Elements are at Mary Place Gallery, 12 Mary Place, Paddington, from 11 to 23 October.

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