Review: Helpmann Academy 2019 Graduate Exhibition, Adelaide

South Australia’s top graduating visual artists are on show at the Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition.
[This is archived content and may not display in the originally intended format.]

Nathan Peacock, corridor (detail), photo by Sarah Sturm.

The annual Helpmann Academy’s Graduate Exhibition has become a highlight of the Adelaide arts calendar and it’s usually the first big event of the year. This year is extra special as it is the 25th Anniversary Exhibition.

The show features 27 of the top graduating visual artists from Adelaide College of the Arts, Flinders University, and the University of South Australia with more than 150 individual works on display. These include works on paper, photography, ceramics, jewellery, and installations. Most are undergraduates and honours students with just three studying higher degrees: two Masters degrees and one PhD candidate. Many of the works engage with familiar themes of identity, migration, belonging, spirituality, and the environment, with detailed catalogue statements explicating the artists’ aims and inspirations.

Nathan Peacock’s installation Corridor stands out as a work that is both immediate and intelligent. Arranged to respond to the specific exhibition site, these seemingly disparate objects offer multiple opportunities for engagement as the viewer discovers the work. More air around it, and a white floor (as in the catalogue photograph) rather than the parquetry of the Drill Hall, would allow the work to make an even stronger statement.  

Two works on paper by Kate Little, Phenotype 1 and 2, are interesting and deserve careful consideration; they are also beautifully executed. These would sit well in any gallery. Little received the $5,000 Lang/McKee Award.

Kate Little, Phenotype 2, photo by Grant Hancock.

A series of bold photographic works by Joseph Häxan demand to be viewed with serious intent. The catalogue notes say that ‘Human figures depicted in the works are governed only by the chaos and obscenity of nature, and its radical indifference to life’. Häxan received the SALA Award which includes an exhibition during SALA 2019.

The most expensive work in the exhibition, at $15,500, is Since 1989 by UniSA Master’s candidate Carly Snoswell. This marvellous piece of textile art celebrates the artist’s love of the Port Adelaide Football Club in all its white, black, and teal glory. It is, she admits ‘an act of obsessive devotion’ and a brilliant example of fandom. This piece should be applauded because it is honest and authentic and clearly demonstrates that not all art has to take itself quite so seriously.

A collection of delicate silver and enamel boxes by Barbara Hesselschwerdt are superb examples of beautiful craftwork. Gathered in a glass case, these little treasures would be further enhanced by better lighting.

The Exhibition features surprisingly little video art. Angelique Joy’s Kill Me Now I Live is about ‘finding beautiful ways of deconstructing the things that contain us’. Unfortunately the soundscape was lost in the buzz of opening night, but the images alone demand your careful attention.

Jonathan Kim uses familiar materials – paper, wood, steel, and stone – to create structures that reproduce ‘the physical structures that create spatial nature in everyday life’. Accepting this year’s prestigious Helpmann Academy British School in Rome Residency, valued at $25,000, Kim confessed (perhaps jokingly…) that ‘my parents think I’m studying business, not art’.  He also won the Linden New Art Award which includes a 3-week exhibition in Melbourne.

Jonathan Kim, Steel and Paper III with Elastomeric, photo courtesy of the artist.

Adelaide’s Helpmann Academy is the only organisation of its kind in Australia, set up specifically to empower South Australia’s most promising emerging creatives and help them to realise their visions and build sustainable practices. It also aims to foster a culture of recognition and appreciation for the challenges that emerging creatives face and build a supportive community around them.

The Graduate Exhibition is, by its nature, a survey of our tertiary arts education and a telling insight into the hearts and minds of these emerging artists. Each of the works asks to be considered as a piece in the continuing puzzle of contemporary arts practice. Keep the catalogue and see how each develops over the coming years.

Rating: 4 stars ★★★★

Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition 2019

Featuring artists from Adelaide College of the Arts (TAFE SA) Flinders University and the University of South Australia

15 February-10 March
Torrens Parade Ground Drill Hall, Adelaide


Dr Diana Carroll
About the Author
Dr Diana Carroll is a writer, speaker, and reviewer based in Adelaide. Her work has been published in newspapers and magazines including the SMH, the Oz, Woman's Day, and B&T. Writing about the arts is one of her great passions.