Current Issue #478

Virgin territory at West Gallery Thebarton

Virgin territory at West Gallery Thebarton

A group of early career artists come together during SALA Festival 2019 to explore the challenges of starting out in the arts world.

West Gallery Thebarton’s SALA exhibition, Extra Virgin, brings together 14 innovative early career artists in an exhibition designed to highlight the emerging talent in the contemporary art scene in South Australia and delve into some of the issues facing artists at the beginning of their career.

Asked how he keeps his arts practice fresh, Sam Howie, who explores the effects of paint on the surface, pushing it to the limits so it becomes almost sculptural, suggests: “Keeping it fresh, for me, has something to do with the here and now. It’s a kind of artistic mindfulness.”

Monika Morgenstern, on the other hand, believes artists shouldn’t concern themselves with keeping it fresh because, whether they are aware of it or not, artists are always pushing the boundaries.

Many of the artists also found it difficult to pin point the value of their work. Joel Gailer, whose painting practice is about pushing the medium beyond the constraints of the canvas, says: “The abstracted nature of art provides a completely different value system to traditional economics.” Morgenstern adds: “The arts have always been important in defining who we are as people and often the only artefact that remains is art.”

Joel Gailer, At each border he was further displaced, 2019
Joel Gailer, At each border he was further displaced, 2019

Steven Bellosguardo, whose sculptures combine contemporary and traditional approaches to the human figure, believes it’s important to have these conversations so there is quality and equality in the art world. Reclining Figure and I, his work in Extra Virgin, is the result of experiences in a rainforest in coastal NSW and a residency abroad in upstate New York.

“It depicts a horse and rider, a principal subject in the history of painting and sculpture,” says Bellosguardo. “This work nods at a classical subject and approach to artmaking while commenting on the new – no longer do we depict the horse and rider, we create works that engage and/ or contribute to the issues of our time. At least for now.”

Bellosguardo believes there are more artists than there have ever been, making the arts scene very competitive. He also feels there is a disparity in the success of an artist and the pay or value gap between internationally successful artists and local artists trying to make their way. However, there are advantages to being an emerging artist, particularly in Adelaide.

“The great advantage in Adelaide is that it’s a small community, you get to meet and work with incredibly talented people more often than I imagine you would in a larger city, and when it comes to competitive opportunities there’s also far fewer fish in the pond.”

Tara Rowhani-Farid’s work in Extra Virgin, RIP Mile High Club, is made using both analogue and digital methods and materials. Rowhani-Farid trawled the internet searching for an Ansett sticker she remembered receiving from a flight attendant in the 90s. “My nostalgia is fed by the fact that, if I look hard enough, I can find all these nonsensical things from my memory online and my work can then become part of this sometimes self-referential system itself,” she says.

Tara Rowhani Farid (Photo: Olivia-Power)

Rowhani-Farid believes that one of the biggest challenges for an emerging artist is the pressure, self-imposed or otherwise, to have your practice figured out. “I’ve had to remind myself over and over that I am new to the job and have taken solace in the idea that no one cares what I do, in the best sense,” she says. “So while the pressure is often looming, I revel in the fact that as an emerging artist I can get away with taking risks and challenging myself without too many eyes on me.”

Rowhani-Farid identifies budget cuts and spaces closing as factors that contribute to the logistical challenges of being an emerging artist, particularly in Adelaide. “Obviously there are less spaces to show work and smaller audiences who attend openings and visit exhibitions, but I think this has resulted in a strong, close-knit and generally welcoming community where artists starting out can feel valued and valid.”

Extra Virgin
Steve Bellosguardo, Max Callaghan, Nicholas Elliott, Thomas Folber, Joel Gailer, Anna Gore, Sam Howie, Jonathan Kim, Nerissa Kyle, Eric Loeschmann, Monika Morgenstern, Loren Orsillo, Tara Rowhani-Farid and Joshua Searson.

West Gallery Thebarton
Until 25 August 2019

Header image:
Tara Rowhani-Farid, Imparja Forever detail, 2018 (Photo: Grant Hancock)

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