Earlier this month, Sarah Ingham and I attended the opening night of Viewpoint, an art exhibition at the Light Square Gallery featuring nine recent graduates from Adelaide College of the Arts. The exhibition is due to end May 31th, so I thought it would be a great time to touch base with the artists and learn more about what went into this exhibition, and where they plan to go next. I was lucky enough to have a chat with a few of the artists and sit in on a talk they were giving about the exhibition process.
One of the first questions I asked was about whether their work reflected their personal relationship with the River Torrens. There were mixed responses. It seems that Annelise Forster had a strong emotional attachment to the river through her childhood memories which was reflected in her piece Stone Hopping. Yet Sophie Mahoney-Longford didn’t have as much of a connection, making her pieces, Riverbank, Ripple, and Reeds, genuine observational views. She also commented that she didn’t worry about trying to infuse her piece with symbolism, presenting her own candid approach. Thea Nicole Paulmitan chose to present a contemporary view of the river, looking beyond the river itself to the surrounding architecture in her pieces: Water & Bridge, Bridge & Water, and Hazy Torrens. Bernadette Freeman regularly visits the Torrens and says: “It was a wonderful opportunity for me to stop and reflect on its beauty and complexity.” As Forster said during the talk, they all chose different things to focus on, they all presented “different viewpoints”.
As with selecting different views and interpretations of their River Torrens theme, each artist had a different style or medium with which to approach their task. The mediums ranged from traditional oil painting, acrylics, paint pouring, sculpture, and photography. Each piece reflected the individual style of the artist, and, as Mahoney-Longford said: “provide our individual responses” to the subject.
Jane Heron-Kirkmoe was one of the artists who spoke to me about her art making process. She was lucky with the gallery space as an unplanned breeze impacted on her piece Spill the Overflow perfectly. She typically works in white and in multiples, forming objects with a contemporary edge. Her works are intended to provoke thought and encourages viewers to “find their own narrative”. She concedes that while her focus is on materiality and the beauty of the everyday, the work is not overly commercial.
While it was important to some of the artists to simply use this exhibition opportunity to express themselves, it was also important to others to make work which was sellable. Mahoney-Longford mentioned that two of her three pieces have already been purchased, and that it was a deliberate choice by her to leave her pieces unframed and therefore more affordable. It can be very important to have works that can be sold in order to balance the cost of creation.
During the group discussion, Ann Podzuweit made a point about the importance of artists having a day-job, as they often pay for your art. Bernadette Freeman made an interesting analogy, which I can personally relate to: art shops such as Eckersley’s are the artist’s lolly shop, but the sweets are much more expensive and add up much quicker. Heron-Kirkmoe also spoke about the importance of a day job, telling me the day job allows her to make art –time management can be a challenge though. Many artists tend to be in the same boat here. It is a delicate balance.
When I was speaking to Paulmitan, I asked if she were to start again with her pieces if she would approach them differently. She was adamant that she would take the same approach. It’s a part of her process to take photos and manipulate imagery, even putting together physical collages before settling on an idea and beginning to paint. Viewpoint is the first of Paulmitan’s exhibitions to feature both her painting and photo-manipulation. While she didn’t originally intend to display her photography, Paulmitan is very happy she took a step away from the traditional mediums predominantly featured in the exhibition.
I think that the most important lesson that these women shared is that it is integral to produce work that “expresses yourself, reflects you, and that you love.” Kylie Nichols stresses that she loves making her work, which is something that artists of any practice can aspire to. Forster mentions how important it is to find what works for you and use it. For her, it is being a social artist and being around people who she can discuss her work with. For others, this might be working independently.
In terms of advice for those considering their own exhibition with a group, these artists had plenty. It’s all about organisation and playing to your strengths. You need to get organised early. Look at grant applications and sponsorship opportunities, do what you can yourself (online advertisement via social media), consider the space you need and how it can be best used to the advantage of your works. One important thing to remember when part of a group exhibition is that you’re never on your own. And as Heron-Kirkmoe said, “aim for the stars, but have one foot on the ground as well.” And most of all, just enjoy the ride.
So where next for these artists?
Mahoney-Longford was considering getting involved with SALA, however her primary focus at the moment is to work on her commissions and her personal projects.
Heron-Kirkmoe is currently back in “making-mode” ahead of a coming exhibition at the Fleurieu Art House in August.
Paulmitan is currently considering further study and, artistically, she intends to pursue her photography rather than painting. In June, her work will be on display at the Youth Scape Exhibition.
Nichols will be exhibiting at the Goodwood Library as a part of ‘SALA Goodwood Road’ and is busily making for another group exhibition coming up in October at the Fleurieu Arthouse.
Freeman is currently creating works for exhibition in SALA.
Forster arrived at the gallery fresh from her studio and paint splattered, so it’s safe to say she’ll be continuing with her art with two SALA exhibitions and an exhibition in Melbourne on the horizon.
I didn’t get a chance to speak with Podzuweit, Todino, or Kukolj to discover their plans, but I am certain that we will continue to see their names and works around Adelaide in the future.
Photography by Nica Kukolji
Words by Kayla Gaskell