When West Gallery Thebarton opened in 2016, owner Margie Sheppard’s goal was to create a space that would serve as a platform for established and emerging artists to show their work and deepen their practice. Like many commercial galleries and arts organizations across the country, however, she has felt the impact of COVID-19, and after six years in business, the gallery will close at the end of the year.
âI hope the six years of West Gallery Thebarton have enriched Adelaide’s artistic life,â says Sheppard.
âI am delighted that this has allowed many deserving artists to show their work in a professional space, at a time when these spaces are scarce. “
An artist herself, Sheppard started the gallery because she was struggling to find a place to exhibit her work and felt the need for another commercial space in Adelaide. Located on West Thebarton Road – in an industrial building she co-owns and which was previously the headquarters of her husband’s business – this has proven to be a turning point for Sheppard professionally, with the gallery helping her reposition her practice, who had strayed from the story. and become more abstract.
âI’ve done a few exhibitions here, but it was never just about me,â she explains. âMy goal was to show artists that I deemed worthy. Artists whose work I thought had merit, but who weren’t necessarily commercial and who weren’t successful elsewhere either.
While commercial galleries often require an artist to enter into an exclusive representational relationship in return for managing their career and regularly showing their work, West Gallery Thebarton has followed a different model. Sheppard was never interested in a formal relationship, allowing artists to exhibit often, without any commitment.
âWe had recurring artists, but that’s because they wanted to come back – it was a mutual thing,â she explains.
Reflecting on the many exhibitions held at the gallery over the years, Sheppard is proud of what she has accomplished: âI enjoyed creating this gallery so much and, more specifically, I learned a lot from it personally, but the moment now has come for me to refocus my energies and pursue my own creative pursuits.
The gallery was launched in August 2016 with the exhibition Life after death, which was curated by Christobel Kelly and featured prominent Adelaide printmakers such as Simone Tippett, Jake Holmes and Olga Sankey. Life after death gave visitors a glimpse of the caliber of upcoming exhibits and, looking back, Sheppard believes they were all strong and with integrity.
Highlights included Mark Thomson Advice for travelers in 2017, centered on strange road signs that the artist noticed during his travels across Australia. The exhibition by Greg Geraghty and Betty Smart, Duplex, as well as exhibitions by John Foubister, Joe Felber, Lucia Dohrmann and Sue Michael.
West Gallery Thebarton has set out to engage with artists, writers and curators to bring in new ideas. This is especially evident in the annual SALA painting exhibitions, which have often initiated debates and discussions about painting and an artist’s practice. Approaches, in 2018, was the first of this type of exhibitions, bringing together a mix of local contemporary artists and asking them the question: “What drives you to paint? This was followed by Extra virgin in 2019 and Heat waves, held earlier this year.
For the final offer, West Gallery Thebarton is presenting two exhibitions simultaneously, which rightly focus on the notion of home and a sense of belonging. Michal Kluvanek’s series of photographs, entitled The The local and the individual, depict people and places in the suburbs of Thebarton, where he lives and works.
Also on display are works by Sue Michael and Talia Wignall under the title Querencia, which is a Spanish word for a place where we feel safe and where we draw our strength and inspiration. Through representations of everyday landscapes, Michael explores the concept of place and what gives meaning to place. Wignall, meanwhile, examines the concept of place and belonging through the representation of objects encrusted with memories and echoes of the past.
As the gallery’s closure leaves a hole in Adelaide’s commercial gallery scene, Sheppard hopes she has made a lasting contribution to the careers of many South Australian artists.
âIt has been six years full of many happy creative events that include meeting many inspiring artists and soul mates. Most important are the wonderful friendships formed which I hope will continue in the future.
The Local and the Particular and Querencia opened at West Gallery Thebarton on November 4 and are on display until December 12, after which the gallery will close permanently.
Works in current exhibitions include:
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.