Know Thy Neighbour: Picture This

When wandering into the charming, “The Little Gallery”, in Sydney’s Five Dock, visitors are welcomed by an eclectic mix of contemporary, landscape, portrait, abstract and mixed-media artworks. And given the diversity of the collection, one could easily assume that the pieces were painted by a variety of different artists. But gallery director Christine Curtis often cheekily anticipates the question, and with a brilliant smile will say, “Yes, these are all my own paintings.”

Originally from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, in England, Christine’s sense of unbridled artistic adventure was born from a penchant for travelling and languages. “My parents loved to travel and from a young age I was immediately drawn to visiting different corners of the world and meeting people of different nationalities. It’s what inspires my work today, and because of it I like to embrace all forms of artistic styles and influences,” she says. 

Christine’s talents were discovered early on – she was completing an Art and Design degree at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and had entered a national art competition. While visiting her parents in Abu Dhabi during semester break, she received a call asking her to return to London so the Lord Mayor could present her with the illustrious ”Sign Centre Award”. “It was a very exciting time for me, as not only did I realise I was on the right path, but it led to multiple job offers at some of London’s most notable design houses,” she says. 

Christine enjoyed her first year working in bustling London but it wasn’t long before the travel bug bit again, and she was off to explore the Middle East and more of Europe. “I’ve never been afraid of travelling alone and going to a different country, learning a new language and immersing myself in the life.”

Her paintbrush would eventually find its next home in Germany’s Düsseldorf, where she was employed at the country’s number-one advertising agency, BBDO, in their film and creative department. “I always look for opportunities to work with creative people, where ideas are always flowing. I tend to thrive when I am around creativity and diversity.” Concurrently, Christine set up a successful home studio where she would sell her pieces and take on commissions. “If you can paint, it can follow you wherever you go and it will look after you.” 

Christine would call Düsseldorf home for the next 20 years while raising two beautiful children, Gemma and Matthew. She proudly boasts, “I love that my children are bilingual. Gemma, who is now 30, is back in Germany working for a large telecommunications company. Every month she is in a different country. I definitely passed the travel gene onto my kids, just as my parents passed theirs onto me.” 

In the recent Sustainability Awards, hosted by the City of Canada Bay, The Little Gallery won the Child Friendly Business Award.

Christine eventually returned to the Middle East to accept a pivotal role that would change her life.

“I hadn’t ever considered becoming a classroom teacher but was offered the job because I had studied art. So I accepted the new challenge and surprisingly found that I was a natural-born teacher. My connection with the children was so gratifying, for them as it was for me.”

This passion for art education would eventually follow her to Sydney where she would go on to become an award-winning after-school art teacher at Drummoyne Art Society in Concord. “I have an amazing bunch of students from all different schools, of all different ages. And as well as art I teach them life skills – I teach them to be discoverers, creative and critical thinkers, something I picked up from the school curriculum used in Dubai. And the kids love it!” says Christine. 

Christine opened The Little Gallery in October 2021 at Five Dock’s Henry Street Crossroads. She admits she felt some trepidation about its diminutive size, at first. But with some coaxing from a good friend who said, “You could make this space work!”,  she thought, “Of course, I can.” And make it work she has. The Little Gallery incorporates her personal art gallery, an artist’s den, a home for her private and group classes and an office to meet potential commission-work clients. It’s also a welcoming home for members of the community to drop in, have a chat and immerse themselves in art – or to just natter about life in general. “I have a group of ladies I teach here fortnightly. In this space we talk, laugh, express ourselves and learn and it’s almost like a therapy session for each of us.

‘No one thinks about pain when they are painting – it forces you to just let go’

I call it ‘artistic meditation’. No one thinks about pain when they are painting – it forces you to just let go,” says Christine.

Above all, Christine will tell you she loves community and that she is fortunate enough to have found an amazing one at work in Five Dock – and at home, which is Breakfast Point. “When my husband and I decided to move here from the Sunshine Coast, Breakfast Point was the first thing that came up in my search and I knew I wanted to live here. That was four years ago.” 

When asked why she loves living in Breakfast Point, Christine is resolute and abundant in her praises. “First and foremost it’s community – there’s always someone you can say hello to, even if you don’t know them. I love the dogs, gardens, cafes and the convenience of the ferry. I used to take the ferry twice a week because I could, and seeing the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House always takes my breath away. Sydney is an optically attractive city and viewing our beautiful country club while coming in from the ferry never gets old.”

Christine’s days are filled with playing golf with her husband, managing the gallery, teaching, painting commission pieces, curating exhibitions for local libraries and generally looking for opportunities to make people happy. “I love to help people. During Covid I created some ‘feel-good’ cards which I popped into random hedges around Breakfast Point to try and cheer people up. I know a lot of people sent them to someone they missed or loved. It’s my driving force – to try and create happiness in someone’s life, because that’s what art does.” 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *