Exhibition review: Neoteric

An exciting showcase of 20 mid-career South Australian artists.

The team behind the aptly named contemporary art exhibition Neoteric have indeed broken fresh ground. The project found an unexpected home in the Adelaide Railway Station, springing up in a couple of hollowed out, stripped-back rooms, and turning them into a fitting new gallery space to showcase 20 innovative South Australian artists. Part of the Adelaide Festival and coinciding with the Adelaide Biennial, Neoteric is an exciting addition to this year’s program of local arts events. 

What is most refreshing about this exhibition is its fierce commitment to an artist-centred approach. As project organiser Ray Harris explains, everything possible has been done to ensure that the support and advancement of the creators (rather than curators, collectors or institutions) is the top priority here. Neoteric primarily highlights mid-career artists who, while highly respected in their field, have thus far not had gallery representation.

Each artist has been paired with an arts writer (someone they have not worked with before, in an effort to foster connection and networking) to produce accompanying written pieces. These essays, along with photographs of the exhibition, have been published in a beautifully produced catalogue, and both the artists and writers have been paid fairly for their work. 

While Neoteric gave its artists free rein to create work on any theme, some common threads have emerged. Unsurprisingly, a key preoccupation is our changing climate and our relationship with the natural world. In Bat Alphabet 40°, Sasha Grbich has transposed the silhouettes of flying foxes (which cannot survive extreme heat) into black ceramic figures. Displayed on a white wall, looking like a code you might crack if you gazed long enough, they invite endless interpretation.

In a dark side room behind a curtain, you’ll find Heidi Kenyon’s meditative and mesmerising We shall by morning inherit the earth. Boxes full of sprouting mushrooms surround an inviting circle of carpet, from which vantage point you can contemplate their growth while electromagnetic signals taken from fungi and translated into synth music provide the soundscape. 

Other highlights include Gus Clutterbuck’s haunting clay sculpture series Sticks and Stones, Deborah Prior’s textile-based performance art pieces, and Ray Harris’s When ghosts move in – a mixed media video installation exploring memory and trauma.

Read: Book Review: The Writer Laid Bare, Lee Kofman

Darren Siwes’s artworks are a thought-provoking and subversive re-envisioning of colonial history in which the British Isles are deemed ‘rich and fit for the purposes of Aboriginal Nations occupation’. Bridget Currie’s intimate, interactive piece titled The little door features a wooden desk and chair and an unassuming sculpture with finger grooves that guide the seated viewer into a slumped posture (a reference to the hunched figure in Goya’s The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters). The viewer would then hear a soft recorded voice emanating from below. 

As well as being a fascinating exhibition in itself, Neoteric is also a challenge to other institutions and organisations to continue developing opportunities for local creators at every career stage, and a reminder to audiences of how much we rely on art during tumultuous times. It’s an exhibition to make you excited about the work being produced by South Australian artists today.  

North Eastern Concourse
Adelaide Railway Station

Conceived, developed and initiated by:
Ray Harris: Project Lead: Ray Harris
Installation Manager: Thom Buchanan
Curator: Julianne Pierce
Exhibition Manager: Sarita Burnett: Exhibition Manager
Writer Coordinator: Fiona Borthwick
Graphic Designer: Rosina Possingham

Featured artists: Tamara Baillie, Thom Buchanan, Deidre But-Husaim, Gus Clutterbuck, Bridget Currie, Brad Darkson, Honor Freeman, Sasha Grbich, Ray Harris, Anna Horne, Heidi Kenyon, Sue Kneebone, Deborah Prior, Will Nolan, Cynthia Schwertsik with Dave Laslett, Darren Siwes, CJ Taylor, Lara Tilbrook, Henry Jock Walker, Laura Wills

Neoteric is on display until 10 April 2022

Megan Koch is a writer and bookseller based in Adelaide. She studied English and Applied Linguistics at Flinders University.