It’s not a commercial gallery or a not-for-profit gallery; it’s not a private gallery or an artist run initiative, even though it’s run by two artists. Southwest Contemporary doesn’t fit into any existing gallery structure and that’s the point.
Run by Craige Andrae and Anton Hart, who between them have a wealth of knowledge and experience in the art world, Southwest Contemporary is an art space where the duo has the liberty to show the art they want to show.
“It’s a commitment that gives us the freedom to make some very subtle moves aesthetically and artistically in a modest but very fine space and then see what happens,” Hart says.
Driven by a desire to exhibit artists whose work isn’t getting an airing anywhere else, Southwest Contemporary will host five projects a year.
“The strength is we have the freedom to put shows on that are in response to what we may perceive as a requirement or a need, something that is not being currently serviced or met,” Andrae says.
Part of the motivation for starting the gallery was that Andrae, who has been absent from the South Australian art scene for nearly 20 years, was ready to return but felt he needed to be an active participant. He needed a studio and found a space on Sturt Street that could house his studio and a gallery.
“I wanted to be involved again in Adelaide’s art scene and make work,” Andrae says. “I realised previously I was very active and the more I thought about it, the more I realised I needed to be true to the way I used to work and be engaged and actively involved and contributing to my community.”
While the Sturt Street space is small and intimate, it is also museum standard. “We built it properly, which stems from a resolute vision of what it should be: clean and crisp so the artwork can stand out,” Andrae says.
Hart adds: “We share a taste, so we have a certain angle. It’s not everyone’s taste but edgy, experimental practice is what we are dead keen on. The current exhibition is indicative of the kind of projects audiences can expect to see.”
Curated by Hart and titled Mortal Close Ups, this exhibition features works by Andrae, the late John Barbour, Paloma Concierta and the now Melbourne-based Shaun Kirby. Andrae’s work Fly was first shown in the 1996 Adelaide Biennial of Art, and Kirby’s Blowhole (Gasbag) at CACSA in 1992 as part of his solo show Cultic Gloss.
Hart felt it was important these works be shown again and believes they are still relevant some 20 to 30 years later. “They are both vitrines that literally and metaphorically hold objects that viscerally speak about mortality and time,” Hart says.
Barbour’s Untitled Object is a sculptural piece made with a single sheet of inert lead moulded into the shape of a human heart. It fits perfectly with Concierta’s recent photograph, Still, which is a reflection of time spent at the hospital with her son as he underwent multiple surgeries after he broke his arm.
Hart states: “What these four works share is a palpable sense of presence. They are about the edges of things and not mere representation. For me, in the end, it is about how art can both gift and fail us in ways that are unsayable.”
205 Sturt Street, Adelaide