South Australia’s emerging art stars show their creativity

The 2023 Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition offers a fascinating glimpse of the art stars of the future, featuring works ranging from an installation of tactile ceramic chairs, to jewellery pieces that draw on personal experience of chronic illness.

Apr 06, 2023, updated Apr 06, 2023
'Soft, Hard' - Lili Harrison’s tactile ceramic chairs are a highlight of the 2023 Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition. Photo: Michael Haines

'Soft, Hard' - Lili Harrison’s tactile ceramic chairs are a highlight of the 2023 Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition. Photo: Michael Haines

2023 Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition
Adelaide Contemporary Experimental

With $80,000 worth of awards on offer, being selected for this exhibition is an incredible opportunity for emerging artists to kickstart their careers. The 21 selected for the 2023 show at Adelaide Contemporary Experimental (ACE) ­– all graduating artists from Flinders University and the University of South Australia ­– traverse a range of media, giving audiences plenty to explore.

Megan Roodenrys’ Delicate (digital print on polycotton) and Suffuse (found sticks, twigs, adhesive). Photo: David Hulme

On entering the exhibition I was immediately struck by honours student Megan Roodenrys’ presentation. Roodenrys is well-known for her portrait work and was an Archibald finalist in 2009 with her depiction of troubled AFL footballer Ben Cousins. Since she returned to art school to complete her honours, her practice has taken a different direction.

Here, Roodenrys presents Suffuse, a digital print on polycotton, and Delicate, an installation of found twigs and sticks. These works focus on fractal fluency, the ability to recognise and process ever-diminishing patterns with relative ease.

Lili Harrison’s tactile ceramic chairs, fittingly titled Soft, Hard, are another highlight. The recipient of the Jaquillard Exhibition Award ($3000 cash), Harrison is influenced by her work as a stylist as she seeks to make connections between art and design. The artist is particularly interested in repurposing traditional forms ­– in this instance, she cleverly presents chairs and pillows that are usually soft in a hard and fragile manner.

One of the major awards, the Helpmann Academy / ACE Studio Program Award, valued at $15,000, was presented to Teresa Busuttil for her installation work, Nixtieq li kont hawn (wish you were here). Consisting of two lenticular light boxes, it explores the artist’s Maltese heritage. Images of Malta, Backstairs Passage (South Australia) and archival footage from Magna Żmien ­– a grassroots project developed to digitise Maltese home audio-visual collections – fade in and out as you move around the room.

Nixtieq li kont hawn (wish you were here), by Teresa Busuttil. Image courtesy the artist

The layering of several images in each light box reflects the notion that migrants often feel as if they are in two places at once. Busuttil was also awarded the City of Adelaide Award ($5000 cash prize), with Nixtieq li kont hawn (wish you were here) acquired as part of the City of Adelaide’s art collection.

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Another fascinating display is Stephanie Doddridge’s series, for which she received the City Rural Insurance / Helpmann Development Award, valued at $5000. Doddridge is a multi-disciplinary artist working with printmaking, ceramic and textile production methods to explore nostalgia and memory within objects and locations.

In The Garden I Recollect 4, an eco-print on paper by Stephanie Doddridge. Photo: Michael Haines

Doddridge is particularly interested in the home garden and how growing produce can evoke memories of family, of shared meals and shared garden labour. The installation work is quiet and reflective, with delicate eco prints on paper and porcelain objects, including her porcelain walnuts, which are a standout.

Beck Johns received the Lang Family Foundation / McKee Award ($5000 cash), as well as the JamFactory Award (valued at $2500). The JamFactory Award is presented to an artist working in ceramics, glass or jewellery, and includes a mentorship and the opportunity to have work on consignment in the JamFactory’s retail store for 12 months, plus an additional $500 cash.

You don’t look sick, by Beck Johns. Photo: Tina Mackenzie

Through her jewellery practice, Johns is drawing on her personal experience and raising awareness of chronic illness, in particular the role of medication in treatment. A double lung transplant recipient, the artist uses blister packs and capsules to create pieces that emphasise how medication can help relieve symptoms but at the same time cause side effects.

These are just a few of the artworks on display, with other disciplines featured – such as glass, moving image, photography and painting – showing the breadth of talent emerging from our art schools.

The Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition is an important presentation showcasing the next generation of South Australian artists. The event also highlights the support from local donors and partners, who recognise the significance of art and culture and the role it plays in our community.

The Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition 2023 is showing at Adelaide Contemporary Experimental until May 6.

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