Wendy Sharpe: Site Unseen

April 26, 2022 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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An all-Jewish crew shot a documentary of renowned artist Wendy Sharpe painting a mural on a wall in the Sydney Jewish Museum…a wall awaiting demolition.

Producer Judy Menczel told J-Wire: It was shot during Covid and Wendy Sharpe superbly discussed her background as a Cohen and her family from Ukraine.” The documentary was made for ABC-TV.

Archibald-winning artist Wendy Sharpe creates a 40-metre mural that would never be seen.

An intimate glimpse into one of Australia’s leading artists, her artistic process and her link to her family history which was based in Ukraine. In 2019 Wendy and her cousin Ruth Fishman toured Ukraine and England to trace their family history. Wendy’s mural is her emotional response to uncovering their story.

Inside the Sydney Jewish Museum, as their first artist-in-residence, Wendy draws her grandmother Bessie Cohen for the first time. We hear how Bessie used to sing the Yiddish song Vu iz dos gesele (Where is the little street)? The song is the title of the exhibition and is about looking for a place that no longer exists.

On the opposite wall is a Ukrainian fortress next to a ‘shtetl’ (Jewish Village); the two are separated by a burning upside-down house. Wendy’s family settled in England fleeing Russian Pogroms (hate riots) circa 1900. They lived close to the small town of Kamianets-Podilskyi. In 1941 Kamianets-Podilskyi became the first mass Jewish killing of the Holocaust with 23,000 murders in three days.

In the documentary Resident Historian at the Sydney Jewish Museum, Emeritus Professor Konrad Kwiet says: Other forms of remembrance, be it paintings, artwork, music, are equally and some cases even more important and attractive to keep the memory alive, or even to tell the story of the Holocaust and Wendy’s exhibition is a classic example.

Wendy Sharpe: Site Unseen shows Wendy’s quirky personality, artistic process and the refugee experience through intergenerational trauma.

Sydney’s COVID lockdown coincided with the public’s only opportunity to see the mural. Wendy liked the poetic nature of the destruction, mirroring the Yiddish song. But she wanted people to see it first.
Major building works at the Museum have seen the whole room smashed, cut through and painted over.

Wendy Sharpe: Site Unseen gives the public the opportunity they missed.

Wendy Sharpe: Site Unseen

Judy Menczel as Producer, Joshua Marks as Director/Camera, Karly Marks as Editor and Sam Weiss as Composer.

On May 1 at 6.30pm on Compass ABC TV and stream on iView.

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