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Inside the organised chaos of ACE Open's creative heart

Tara Rowhani-Farid
Elizabeth Harper
Tara Rowhani-Farid

Lovers of contemporary art would be familiar with ACE Open’s west end gallery, but just upstairs sits a group of emerging local artists honing their practice fuelled by a mix of tea, toasties and camaraderie.

“I was the first of the current group of residents to move in – I settled in at the start of January and the next resident didn’t arrive till early February,” Tara Rowhani-Farid tells The Adelaide Review.

“It was special having that massive space to myself for a month but I was so excited when my studio-mates moved in and started filling their studios with artwork and organised chaos.”

Every year ACE Open picks five emerging South Australian artists to undertake a 12-month residency, receiving rent-free studio spaces and a welcoming creative home. As a recent Honours graduate of the University of South Australia’s Bachelor of Painting program, the Studio Program came at the perfect time for Rowhani-Farid.

“[It] was the best thing that could have happened to me after leaving the cosy, warm safety blanket that is art school,” she says. “It is so important to have a reliable and supportive studio space – not only does it provide you with somewhere to make the art, but, for a new graduate, can act as a workplace; encouraging structure and enforcing a certain mindset to get things done.”

Alongside Rowhani-Farid, the 2019 ACE Open Studio crop includes Tamara Baillie, Jess Taylor, Max Callaghan and Steven Cybulka, all of whom will exhibit work in Open Studio, ACE Open’s first exhibition of 2020.

“What I really respect about Tamara’s practice is that she is constantly exploring histories – regardless of what she might unearth – a deeply brave and powerful thing to be able to do,” Rowhani-Farid says of studio-mate Tamara Baillie. “She creates work that hops between sculpture, installation and painting – each time I try to nail her down what it is that she does she comes out with a different skill and surprises me.

ACE Open Studio Artists, L_R Max Callaghan, Tara Rowhani-Farid, Jess Taylor, Steven Cybulka, Tamara Baillie photo by Elizabeth Harper
Elizabeth Harper
ACE Open Studio residents Max Callaghan, Tara Rowhani-Farid, Jess Taylor, Steven Cybulka and Tamara Baillie

Then there’s resident Max Callaghan, who Rowhani-Farid says has spent the year “sitting on the floor of his studio, painting like a machine”. “He is someone who has to paint and draw to figure out his feelings. Because of this his paintings tell a story – where sometimes that story is plain weird, bloody funny, or heartbreakingly sad.”

The show will mark the first time ACE Open’s studio artists have taken over the downstairs space to showcase not only a snapshot of each artist’s practice, but a broader body of work born of a shared communal space.

“Being surrounded by the other artists in the studio space has been the most fulfilling part of the studio residency program at ACE. We’ve shared cups of tea, toasted sandwiches, ‘crit’ sessions, whinge sessions and many, many laughs.

“It’s been special to have the opportunity to watch another artist’s work progress over the span of a year and to constantly be inspired by the creativity and ingenuity of a group of people. What has been encouraging for me in particular has been to see the emerging and early-career artists in my studio work ‘as artists’ – getting rejections, getting opportunities, and working hard.

“It has allowed me to feel like I can take my foot off the pedal a little bit and allow things to evolve naturally and at a rate that is conducive to good mental health.

“The Studio Program provides artists with space, time, freedom, curatorial support and professional development opportunities – things that can’t be underestimated for any creative activity to be tested, grow and evolve,” ACE Open artistic director Patrice Sharkey explains. 

Open Studio marks the first exhibition for ACE Open’s 2020 slate, which will include Replaying Life’s Tape in February-April (a touring exhibition from Berlin-based artist Mariana Castillo Deball inspired by the Ediacaran Hills in the Flinders Ranges), a July showcase of experimental video and film-based art presented by recess.net.au and October-December’s Wet Work (a reflection on water curated by Melbourne writer Danni Zuvela).

ACE Open Studio residents Tara Rowhani-Farid and Tamara Baillie
Elizabeth Harper
ACE Open Studio residents Tara Rowhani-Farid and Tamara Baillie

From July to October ACE Open will present its 2020 South Australian Artist Survey, an ambitious series of newly commissioned work from artists including Aida Azin, Kate Bohunnis, Sundari Carmody, fine print,Yusuf Hayat, Matt Huppatz, Tutti Arts, Sandra Saunders and Emmaline Zanelli.

Having moved from Melbourne just under a year ago to take over as ACE Open’s curator, Open Studio is a fitting note to kick off Sharkey’s 2020 program.

“From my personal perspective as a curator, having a whole year to be involved in an artist’s practice is very special and allows me to build an in-depth and nuanced understanding of what drives them – as well as how ACE Open can create future pathways for them and their work. I believe it’s a relationship that doesn’t end after the Studio Program residency and I can’t wait to see what happens next for our 2019 studio artists.” 

24 January – 15 February

ACE Open:
Open Studio

Walter Marsh

Walter Marsh

Digital Editor
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Walter is a writer, editor and broadcaster living on Kaurna Country. His work has appeared in Rip It Up, The Saturday Paper, Smith Journal, Royal Auto, Swampland Magazine, Broadsheet and The Thousands.

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