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The Entrepot Experience + John Mills Himself

By Mark Thomson 

Artist Ken Hiratsuka in Brisbane visiting artist run spaces That Space and John Mills National in 1986 as a participating artist in the Outside Art exhibition curated by Toyo Tsuchiya and Malcolm Enright from the No Se No artist-run gallery in NYC [That Space, 1986] and here the artist is sculpting the front stairs of the John Mills Himself building at 40 Charlotte Street Brisbane as an ephemeral art work. PHOTO: Attributed to Adam Boyd and Russell Lake courtesy of John Mills National archives
Sculptor Ken Hiratsuka was born in 1959 in Shimodate City, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan Read more at




Entrepot ,the French word for warehouse, was the ‘quip’ used by QIT architecture students to reference the John Mills Himself studio space ,occupied between 1982 and 1987.Although technically not “an artist run space”, it became an experimental workroom for artists, artisans and designers, naively fulfilling a need emerging in Brisbane at that time.




Brisbane in the 1980’s had ageing, character filled red brickwork buildings, with amazing hardwood trusses and solid timber floor joists. Buildings with T+G boarded floors and ceilings, dated colour schemes and rusting roofs were being bulldozed to make way for reflective glass walled concrete towers with little recognition of place, or regard for streetscape.




Designers and artists were searching for something new, reacting to community attitudes at the time, holding an unwavering belief, that we could succeed with a better way for our future.




Our initial support for artists was realised by our indiscriminate need to accept any revenue, to pay our monthly rent. Our early subscriptions from design students soon dissipated and we naively innovated and experimented to secure our own studio space survival, often subsidised by artists requiring studio space.




I have often reflected and questioned occasionally the relevance of our time at the John Mills Himself Building at 40 Charlotte Street. I now understand that the environment, social interactions and memories play an important place in the development of one’s life and purpose. “Entrepot”, John Mills National and “That” created opportunities and interactions for many people in Brisbane to release their creative passions Consequently I believe that it has fulfilled a place in Brisbane’s social history and built fabric.




I can still vividly recall my attendance at a “That” event/ party where I was first introduced to what I now know as “electronic dance music” and early rap music. When I visited Los Angeles in 1989,years later for my first overseas trip, I reflected that these were “genres” I had first heard in Brisbane via Artist run space events I had attended many years earlier. Radio 4ZZZ was another important ingredient of this era.




In hindsight, those days were an incubator of art, music and design ideas where the seeds were sown for many to develop particular ideas and approaches. This arguably has now resulted in some significant outcomes in Brisbane’s art and architecture development.




It is hard to believe that Entrepot is now over 30 years old and the “Entrepot Experience” has had a meaningful impact on many others -not just myself.




The Australia Koala Foundation ,current owners of the John Mills Himself Building and John Mills Himself Cafe recently held a John Mills Himself retrospective inviting many people, that that building has socially and professionally influenced in some way. The artist and design studio atmosphere continues to evolve and flourish.




Interestingly I have been unable to part with much memorabilia from that time including Eyeline magazines, artwork from Sally Hart and exhibition publicity for Wendy Mills and Lyndall Milani. I was immensely pleased in 1989 whilst visiting London to see Sheridan Kennedy’s jewelery/artwork on display, at Australia House remembering her vividly working away at JMH for many months.




Reflection and memory often gloss over the struggles of the time, the lack of money, need to beg borrow or reuse materials, the occasional police visits and disrespect for authoritative structure, now seem long gone.




I have no doubt that our resourceful thrifty ways, reuse of materials and baptism to rental responsibility paved the way for a social, environmental and economic understanding of sustainability principles, still needed by our current broader community.




Mark Thomson, January 2016

Mark Thomson was President of Entrepot from 1983-1987 and is now a Brisbane based Architect practicing ecologically sustainable development and design.





Versions, Editors including Caroline Stalker

Versions, Magazine Cover, 1985,  Editors including Caroline Stalker and contributors including Mark Thomson and many others.





ACCESS - A View From THAT, 1985, Versions Magazine, Paul Andrew

ACCESS – A View From THAT, 1985, Versions Magazine, Paul Andrew