Nick Mitzevich–Director, Art Gallery of SA
Bound by the Southern Ocean and reaching into the central desert regions to the north, South Australia fosters an artistic landscape as varied as its geography. Outward looking and materially brave are two ways I would describe the art of the state. Long-standing artisanal traditions have wrought an art scene with technical sophistication, while the size of the state’s population has ensured that its artists have always looked beyond their immediate environment for opportunities and inspiration. If I had 48 hours in South Australia, this is my selection of people and places I must see and meet:
Ernabella Arts in Pukatja
Much has been made of the revolution in Aboriginal art brought about by art centres late last century, but few Australians are aware that the very first Aboriginal art centre began in Pukatja, in the far north west of South Australia in 1948. Ernabella Arts began almost 70 years ago and the first works of art that were made there included textiles, particularly hand woven rugs. In the 1970s Anangu artists visited Indonesia and returned introducing the art of batik (drawing with wax) to the desert communities. Quickly expanding to encompass painting, printmaking, sculpture and ceramics, today Ernabella is part of the rich network of art centres in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands.
National living treasure Robert Hannaford
Local and national living treasure Robert Hannaford is the long awaited subject of a major exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia. Running from early July to early October this year, the Art Gallery presents 50 years of work by Hannaford. Receiving his first art commendation at 10, Hannaford has been an Archibald Prize finalist for 25 years, winning the People’s Choice three times. His commissioned portraits have captured Australia’s most prominent including Prime Minister Paul Keating. Hannaford’s love of drawing and his commitment to capturing life with pencil and pen is the unexpected triumph of this exhibition.
Adelaide street artist Peter Drew
Adelaide’s Peter Drew has ignited a national conversation about asylum seekers with his street art series Real Australians Say Welcome. Inspired by the lyrics of the Australian national anthem’s second verse, particularly the words ‘with courage let us all combine’ Drew’s 1000 hand-printed posters can be found from Albany to Alice Springs. Continuing his questioning of what constitutes a ‘real’ Australia, Drew’s latest body of work retrieves Monga Khana from the archive – an Afghan immigrant and cameleer who was excluded, from being ‘Australian’.
Remarkable Rocks in Kangaroo Island
Resembling ancient megalithic forms, Remarkable Rocks reveals nature as artist triumphant. These granite formations in Flinders Chase National Park, in the south- western corner of Kangaroo Island, have been sculpted by wind, rain and sea into monumental natural cathedrals, teetering on the edge of the Southern Ocean. Perhaps the attraction of these rocks, apart from their colossal scale (rising approximately 75 metres from the sea) is their anthropomorphic quality — they resemble human and animal forms with oversized heads and bodies that jut from the escarpment. Golden lichen covers their bodies contributing to their surreal impact.
Carrick Hill in the Adelaide Hills
On the slopes of the Adelaide Hills is the former home of art lovers Bill and Ursula Hayward. Called Carrick Hill, this 20th century folly riffs on the art of previous centuries and also presents some unexpected modern masterpieces including works by Gauguin, Jacob Epstein and Stanley Spencer. From the Barr-Smith family who bequeathed their extensive collection of William Morris to the Art Gallery of South Australia, Ursula Hayward was the first woman to join the Board of the Art Gallery and she had a significant impact on modernising the Gallery’s collection. This year from early August to early December Carrick Hill presents Stanley Spencer: a 20th Century British Master.
Hot glass at the Jam
The balcony at Jam Factory affords a vista — not a typical landscape — but a compelling bird’s eye view of a lively glassblowing studio. Here artisans transform molten, glowing matter into impossible vitreous forms.