Since opening in March 1992 Greenaway Art Gallery has shown the work of 24 artists of which 13 are locally based and 5 are women. The work shown has ranged widely from paintings, drawings and graphics by Sidney Nolan to the wooden figures reflected in mirrors of the naive art of Ted Chambers, a retired rocket scientist, to soft sculpture by Louise Haselton and the carved treetrunks of Bert Flugelman. You never know what to expect next.
Of the three main exhibition areas in the gallery the two large ones of 16 x 8 metres and 13 x 8 metres are particularly well-suited to large paintings and sculpture. In April the larger space was used as a project space for a 'work in process' by three local sculptors, Ted Jonsson, Ron Rowe and Johnnie Dady. Using red gum blocks, sawdust and hessian bags, different forms and configurations were constructed, at times reflecting imagery from the somewhat 'Boy's Own' paintings of David Bromley on show at the time.
The large sculpture gallery could potentially be used again as a project space and it is one of director Paul Greenaway's many tasks or positions to attempt to mollify some of the borders between commercial and non-commercial art or commercial and non-commercial galleries. An example of this was the combination of Hossein Valamanesh's show at GAG in May with a satellite exhibition at post-west gallery at 98 Gray Street in the city. post-west is a non-funded non-commercial space which also opened this year and is providing a flexible focus for visual arts dialogue.
For a city of its size Adelaide is particularly well-served with well-funded contemporary art spaces - the EAF and the CAC, with institutionally-based contemporary art galleries - the University of South Australia Art Museum, the Festival Centre Artspace, the Union Gallery and the North Adelaide School of Art Gallery as well as contemporary art venues such as Art Zone, Fables Contemporary Art, post-west, Prospect Art Gallery, and others. However as a marketplace for contemporary art it is not particularly promising. Two commercial galleries located in the city, Manning and Anima which also opened, or in the case of Anima re-opened, in March 1992 have both now closed down. GAG is not likely to meet this fate because of the tenacity, ambition, vision, networks and teaching job of its director.
With a strong commitment to a national and international profile Greenaway took the work of 6 local artists - David Bromley, Aldo Iacobelli, Darryl Austin, Margaret Worth, Roger Noakes and Ted Jonsson to the recent Contemporary Art Fair in Melbourne. During the Fair the Australia Council and Austrade announced GAG to be one of the four galleries whose attendance they intend to subsidise on a gradually decreasing basis at ARCO, the annual International Contemporary Art Fair in Madrid, for the next 4-5 years. The other galleries are Roslyn Oxley, Australian Galleries and Christine Abrahams. For GAG to be selected after less than a year in operation and the one gallery not from the Eastern States is remarkable.
Thus far GAG has shown an idiosyncratic, sometimes anomalous, blend of art, much of it by artists not seen before in Adelaide such as the dense interiors of Victor Robin, the landscapes and pomegranates of Wendy Kelly, the photo-realism of Hanna Kay and David Disher, the pastel-fluoro bronzes of Geraldine Burrowes, Lillian Townsend's expressionistic figures, Peter Hook's multi-media Gauguinisms, Frank Grauso's typography and symbols and the religio-erotic baroque constructions of Tony Trembath. Local artists shown have ranged from well-established artists like Tony Bishop and Clifford Frith to Darryl Austin, Bill Coomblas, Louise Haselton and Neil Austin who have had their first one-person shows at GAG.
Of particular note were the unusual carved plaster and carved custom wood works by Shaw Hendry.
A new project of GAG is the making of videos, 17 minutes long each featuring the work of 7 artists in around 25 images each. G-1, with music by Mark Kimber is available now, G-2 is to be released at Christmas and G-3 will be out in March next year. At the moment the videos are being made in Sydney though in the future they may be made in Adelaide. The videos are intended for educational as well as private use and signify a new electronic mode of viewing traditional fine art media, cheaper and hence more accessible than a publication.
At the moment there are 29 art schools in Australia from which around 20,000 students will graduate this year. Not all graduates will practise as artists but with 10-20% of commercial galleries having recently closed the opportunities for exhibitions and sales have narrowed. In this context and particularly in Adelaide where commercial galleries can be counted on one hand GAG is an important initiative.
Paul Greenaway, a practising artist who has had 21 one-person shows, has an almost evangelical approach to art, to its future, to supportive gallery/artist relations, to art as an acquisitive and learned pleasure and to GAG being not only a place for exhibitions but also an ongoing consultative service for artists and collectors. The bottom line is not profit but integrity and the creation and maintenance of fertile ground.
Reviewed by Stephanie Radok