Artists reinterpret rare Adelaide collections of bugs and fungi

August 23, 2017

Artist and Viscopy member Angela Valamanesh’s new exhibition Everybody’s Everything: Insect/Orchid opened on 23 August at the University of Adelaide to critical acclaim. Her works have evolved from an artist’s residency at the University’s Rare Books & Special Collections, made possible by a $15,000 Create Career Fund grant from the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.

Valamanesh completed a studio-based PHD at the University of South Australia in 2011 focusing on early scientific illustrations drawn with the use of microscopes. It was there that her initial concepts for this exhibition began. “I am interested in imagery that is ambiguous, that has a certain familiarity to it but is not completely or easily recognisable,” says Valamanesh. “I became aware of the amazing quality and quantity of scientific illustrations located in the Barr Smith Library’s collection and knew I wanted to base future work on them.”

Valamanesh has sculpted close to 20 individual ‘insect orchids’ from clay. “These insect-like shapes create a new spectrum of imagery and narratives that call to mind both floral and human forms,” said the artist. Further enhancing the ambiguity of shape and image, each unique sculpture is presented in a trichromatic palette of black, gold and deep burgundy.

“This is one of the best residencies I’ve participated in,” Valamanesh says, “having the Special Collection’s content made available to me, and the constant support from the librarians has been invaluable. I’m deeply thankful to the Copyright Agency to have had this opportunity.”

The exhibition runs until 1 October at the Barr Smith Library University of Adelaide North Terrace Campus.

The Create Career Fund is open now for applications and closes on 12 October 2017.

Also in Adelaide until 24 September is the Collections Project: Michelle Kelly at the Botanic Gardens of South Australia. Artist Michelle Kelly debuts her latest work consisting of jewellery, sculptures and installations made using traditional metalsmithing techniques and a variety of materials.

The work draws inspiration from the extensive collection of preserved fungi at the State Herbarium. Kelly says, “This was a such a rare and wonderful opportunity to work with artefacts at the Museum, some of which date back 130 years.”

The Collections Project is an ongoing initiative of the Guildhouse that received $16,000 from the Cultural Fund in 2016 to develop and expand the program. Its aim is to support artists to create new work and develop their skills through access to collections and curators at selected cultural organisations throughout Adelaide.

Guildhouse Executive Director, Emma Fey, says “We are so thrilled to have the support of the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund for this important project which provides significant opportunities for artists to expand their practice.”

Angela Valamanesh: Insect/Orchid 16, 2017, ceramic. Photo: M Kluvanek

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