Old Sinners and Venerated Spirits Inhabit Adelaide Town Hall

Andrew Purvis is this year’s emerging curator at the Adelaide Town Hall Gallery and Art Pod space. Purvis, who hails from Western Australia, begins his program with Old Sinners and Venerated Spirits at the Town Hall Gallery.

The photography exhibition features West Australian-based artists, Thea Costantino and Eva Fernandez alongside South Australian-based artists, Sue Kneebone, Darren Siwes, and Min Wong. Creating more links between the two states is something Purvis hopes to build on.

“I think it’s interesting to work away from the gravitational pull of Sydney and Melbourne and start thinking about ways we can put exhibitions together and put artists together from those communities,” Purvis says.

old-sinners-venerated-spirits-adelaide-reviewEva Fernandez, Gracias a la almorta (Thanks to the almorta)
after Goya’s Los Desastres de la Guerra No.51 (2016)

The exhibition focuses on colonial histories with artists often drawing on their own cultural heritage to explore notions around colonisation.

“Each of the artists in the show is grappling with legacies of history and often working with those through figures that are phantasmagorical, grotesque or uncanny in some way,” Purvis says.

For instance, Costantino’s images are from her series Daughters of Empire. The title comes from a Canadian organisation formed in 1900 that encouraged imperialism and colonisation. Constantino has created a series of portraits of famous Colonial women in the style of Madame Tussaud’s wax works, they are slightly grotesque.

old-sinners-venerated-spirits-adelaide-review
Eva Fernandez, The Way (2016)


Purvis has included works from Fernandez’s recent series, Heresy to Hereditary that draws on her Spanish heritage. One of the works, The Way, is a large 1.7 metre long digital print mounted on aluminium. The image depicts figures masked by the black capirotes of the Inquisitors drifting through the forest.

The image was shot in the bush in Western Australia, blending Purvis’s Spanish and Australian heritage. As well as focusing on colonial legacies, the exhibition also looks at dislocation from the artists’ own cultural heritage. For example, Wong’s has a Chinese/European background but was brought up in a European household cutting her off from her Chinese background. She is exploring and reconnecting with her Chinese heritage and ancestors through her work. Wong images feature a subtle digital manipulation where it looks as if damage has occurred to the negative.

old-sinners-venerated-spirits-adelaide-reviewEva Fernandez, Hanging skull and Crown (Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown) (2016)

Also included in the exhibition are photographs by Kneebone featuring South Australian pastors, including one of her ancestors. Siwes’ images depict ghostly translucent figures of contemporary aboriginal men and women looking out of place in the colonial landscapes.

While Purvis is still planning the exhibition schedule for the rest of the year, one element he is planning is to use the two screens in the Art Pod space more frequently. While they are used sporadically, Purvis plans to use them every exhibition period, creating what could be a third exhibition space.

Old Sinners and Venerated Spirits
Artists: Thea Costantino, Eva Fernandez, Sue Kneebone, Darren Siwes, and Min Wong
Adelaide Town Hall
Until Friday, April 21

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