The Jewish-themed mural whose wall will be a computer, tablet or phone screen

August 7, 2021 by Henry Benjamin
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Archibald Prize winner Wendy Sharpe has painted a mural in the Sydney Jewish Museum which no member of the public will be able to set his or her eyes on it because of the Coronavirus lockdown and the planned demolition of the wall on which her work “Vu iz dos Gesele (Where is the Little Street)?” is painted.

The mural

The 61-yr-old Sydney artist who also has a home in Paris has also been awarded the much-coveted Sir John Sulman Prize for her work depicting the witches from Macbeth.

The space in which the work was painted is due for demolition as part of the extensions for the museum,

J-Wire had a few questions for her.

Q: When did you get the idea of the mural?

A: I have been working on this concept for several years.

My father Alan Sharpe ( born Alan Cohen ) writer/ historian died in 2002. I was very close to him, and it was not until many years later that I could open a box of diaries he’d kept all this life.
It was such a gift to read them ! among the papers there was a few typed pages by a relative who had written a few lines about everyone in the family. At the end of his paragraph about my Grandmother Bessie (who died in London before I was born), he spoke of a song she used to sing in Yiddish and Russian “Vu iz dos Gesele (Where is the Little Street)?”.
Listening to a version of it sung by the Barry sisters made me cry. Such a simple and powerful song of dispossession and what it is like to be a refugee.

I felt like I was reaching across time to my grandmother.

The mural depicts my journey to Ukraine in 2019, to research part of my Jewish history, looking for traces that remain after my family escaped pogroms around 1900.

The long continuous narrative of the mural relates to lots of work I have done before in long concertina sketchbooks.

Q: Did you know the mural would be destroyed?

Yes!  The ephemeral nature of the wall paintings portrays a time and place that no longer exists – echoing to the poignant song of the title of the exhibition “Where is the little street?”… so it needs to disappear. but I wanted people to see it first !!

 Here are the words of the song ……..

Q: Will you paint it somewhere else.

A: No this is it!

However, I have painted temporary large murals  (on scissor lifts) at Mosman and Maitland Regional Gallery. There is a huge permanent mural I painted last year  – the Women’s Empowerment Mural in Church St Newtown, but this one is utterly personal, and in a sense, an accumulation of much of my work…it can only be at the Jewish Museum.
Q: What does it mean to know that for at least a while your memories have been visualised in a Holocaust environment?

A: I am very disappointed it can not be seen by the public !!!   I  have already had very moving feedback from people whose parents survived the Holocaust.

 It was in the perfect location in the Jewish Museumpage1image51995456

In place of an in-person launch, the Sydney Jewish Museum is offering two live online events to bring the artwork and its stories to the public.


Wendy Sharpe’s grandmother Bessie is the little girl in the centre


In Ukraine

Sunday 8 August, 3pm

The online premiere for Wendy’s ambitious exhibition, featuring a series of documentary clips, an artist Q&A, and a behind the scenes look at the development of the mural. The Sydney Jewish Museum brings audiences this unique opportunity to engage with Wendy’s artwork from home.

Beyond the canvas – Artist talk with Wendy Sharpe, Bernard Ollis and Elizabeth Fortescue Sunday 15 August, 4pm

An exclusive artist interview with The Daily Telegraph’s Arts Editor Elizabeth Fortescue and artists Wendy Sharpe and Bernard Ollis. The three will speak on the importance of recording history and sharing family stories through art. We invite viewers to join this vibrant artist talk and explore how the history is represented by artists.


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