A new exhibition featuring the work of queer Western Sydney artists could serve as an alternative queer history of Sydney, curator Daniel Mudie Cunningham said.

Now showing at Blacktown Arts Centre, Bent Western surveys the work of the Western Sydney arts community over the past three decades. As an official event of the Mardi Gras festival and in the 30th year of the parade it recognises a queer history of Sydney outside of the inner city and far away from Oxford St.

So many things happen out beyond Sydney, in Western Sydney, Cunningham said. There are creative hubs and communities at work, and this exhibition demonstrates, over a period of time, that gay Sydney is also out in the suburbs.

All of the artists in the exhibition have lived, worked, or studied in Western Sydney. The arts community in Western Sydney was really centred around the art school at the University of Western Sydney, which until recently had a great reputation for producing really fine graduates, Cunningham explained.

In 2006, UWS announced it would stop accepting new students for their Fine Arts, Electronic Arts and Performance degrees, effectively gutting the UWS College of Arts.

Cunningham, who gained both his Bachelor’s degree and PhD at UWS, agreed that the loss of the programs would diminish the unique identity of Western Sydney artists, as separate from the arts community in inner Sydney.

There is a melancholy to the exhibition, in the sense that it’s surveying something that won’t be there any more, he said.

Cheeky references to Western Sydney are found throughout the works. Christopher Dean’s Middle Age Hard Edge Abstractionist From St Marys Seeking Same is one of four new fanciful tributes to Western Sydney histories, while Marius Jastkowiak’s Man Taking Shower in Granville explores homoeroticism through the blurred contours of the male nude.

There is a freshness about what comes out of Western Sydney, a dynamism that’s taken for granted in an urban context, Cunningham said.

Bent Western at Blacktown Arts Centre until 12 April. Ring 9839 6558.

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