Tanya Schultz at home in Fremantle, photo: Bo Wong.

At the street, a metal A-frame sign indicates Home Open, just like those we encounter every Saturday in the suburbs directing us to enter and explore houses for sale, invariably with the occupier's private lives exposed to strangers. Once inside, the many hallways and galleries of the Fremantle Arts Centre (which has recently expanded into the premises of the adjacent and now defunct Fremantle History Museum) overflow with installations of artworks, items of domestic furniture and ornamentation transplanted directly from the homes of 30 local artists/artist couples. This exhibition invites you in and makes you feel welcome, encouraging you to peer into the interior lives and collections of well-known creators whose own exhibitions you have likely viewed on other occasions.

Many visitors to the exhibition were, like me, familiar with the names and styles of both the "collector" artists and “collected” artists on display, but the show had relevance even for an outsider to the art world of Fremantle. It told the universal story of collecting artworks and objects as we all do, of creating an environment around oneself to reflect both our personality and passions, as well as being a visual record of our memories of people, places and times - our personal histories.

Often these private worlds throw up the work of other well-known local artists, some of whose collections are displayed nearby. Reading the collectors’ commentaries on the wall and in the catalogue was enlightening and inspiring as they often referred to the acquisition of a particular work, which might have been part of a series of exchanges going way back or perhaps a gift from the artist. So many of them were friends and through this project they demonstrated an immense fondness, respect and admiration for their fellow artists, those with whom they had emerged with and grown alongside. Richard Gunning is delighted to share a group of works that have value for him beyond the aesthetic appeal; they are all but one made by “cherished long-term friends”. Megan Salmon shows a set of intense pieces dear to her and collected in the eighties. “They were made by artist friends I held in the highest regard”.

Trevor Richards comments: “I get a lot of pleasure and inspiration from my daily interaction with other artist’s work around the house.... Rather than the experience of viewing art in galleries, this engagement is slow; over many years and changes in circumstances, full of memories and connections to friends and colleagues.”  This sentiment prevails in the exhibition and the dynamic dialogue between the collectors, the artists and the works speaks of an artistic community that endures, and entwines upon itself in positive ways, in an isolated port town that was once a cheap option for artists to live and operate in.

So artworks by Trevor Richards appear in the collections of other artist-collectors in the show and the same goes for lots of other collectors collected, such as Theo Koning, Susanna Castleden, George Haynes, Giles Hohnen, Holly Story, Therese Howard. Eveline Kotai’s work from 1983 to 2005 is the sole focus of the display selected from Amanda McHenry’s collection.

Curators Chris Hill, Bevan Honey and Consuelo Cavaniglia have collaborated on a monumental scale to consult with the collectors and select the appropriate works, as well as impressively gaining the collectors’ trust in letting the works into their care. Photographer Bo Wong has made a magnificent contribution in her series of intimate domestic portraits of the artists at home amongst their collection. The images can be seen in the excellent publication.

There are some breathing spaces from all this mutual admiration and they include Tanya Schultz’s wonderful collection of multicoloured crocheted rugs stacked high on a pouf alongside a shelf display of her mass of multicoloured glass vases. The familiar and domestic nature of her presentation is a great entrance point to the exhibition. Christine Gosfield collects Mexican ex-votos, while Janis Nedela collects erotic “Shunga” art from Japan. Finally artist couple, Michele Sharpe and Jurek Wybraniec, each collect and display their somewhat surprising choice of dolls, summing it up with the comment “We both medicate ourselves with objects.” And we do.