Neighbourhood icon Meg Hewitt returns to Surry Hills after years abroad for her exhibition Tokyo Is Yours at Flinders Street Gallery. The exhibition showcases her photography series created in Japan over two years.
Meg was inspired by the Great East earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011 and wanted to truly understand what it felt like to live in Tokyo, only 120km from the Daichi power plant. The series draws on manga, surrealism and film noir. “Initially I was fascinated by the apparent inability to evacuate Tokyo in the case of a major disaster. I was inspired by a culture that still surprises me in its traditions, and in its innovations and how they co-exist in this inescapable bubble,” explains Meg.
But Meg’s story starts on Crown Street, where before she owned notorious Kawa café, she attended art school nearby and frequented what was then Mali café. “That was back before there were outdoor seating licenses,” recalls Meg. “People used to sit all over the foot path on milk crates. It was illegal and a lot of fun.”
In Meg’s Surry Hills, Brett Whiteley could be spotted at the local Laundromat, Max Sharam played at Kinselas every Sunday afternoon, and painter Colin Lanceley lived around the corner. “There was an amazing atmosphere in Surry Hills in the nineties. Artists could afford to live in warehouses. We had crazy parties all the time and live music and art galleries were everywhere.”
Meg began studying sculpture, painting and temporal media at art school, acquiring skills that continue to inform her thoughts and photographic eye. In 2010 she decided to pursue photography, which until then had been a creative hobby to help her wind down after work. “I think my love for photography came from my father, he was always taking pictures. I also did some short courses at the Australian Centre of Photography which really ignited my passion.”
After she sold Kawa, Meg travelled to Denmark and undertook an internship with Magnum photographer Jacob Aue Sobol in Copenhagen. Her book Tokyo Is Yours was printed in Denmark in July of last year. Since the book was published, the series has been exhibited in renowned photography festival Recontres d’Arles in the south of France, where it was selected as one of the top five shows of the festival.
This year, part of her series was exhibited in Ballarat at the International Foto Biennale where it won fringe artist of the year.
“It was great to see the work culminate into a book which people have really embraced. The exhibition gives more meaning [to the work] as the installation is layered and plays with the narrative.”Despite worldwide success and acclaim, for Meg Surry Hills will always be home. “I love its old buildings and small laneways, and Crown Street has always been a vital backbone of the community. I hope that affordable housing options remain to allow creative renters to keep living in the area.”
Meg’s photography series Tokyo Is Yours runs until December 9 at Flinders Street Gallery, 91 Flinders Street. In 2018, the series will be exhibited at famous Bar Kodoji in Shinjuku, Japan.
For more information about Meg and her book ‘Tokyo Is Yours’ click here