art@wintergarden celebrates ten years

Welcome to our new guest contributor, Linda Edgerton who has kindly contributed this interview with Jill Shalless, artist and proprietor of the art@wintergarden gallery. The gallery is celebrating its 10 years of operation and here we discover some of Jill’s highlights over the last decade and what’s ahead for the Wintergarden. Special thanks to Linda for organising this, and congratulations to Jill and staff at art@wintergarden for supporting the Geelong art community for a decade.

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Jill Shalless at Wintergarden
Jill Shalless at art@wintergarden. (Image courtesy art@wintergarden)

Celebrating its tenth year in 2014 art@wintergarden is a vibrant art space that continues to evolve and build its presence in Geelong. Located upstairs in the iconic Wintergarden building, it includes an active art studio and atmospheric gallery that hosts a rotation of monthly exhibitions, traditional and contemporary, showcasing art works of excellence including landscapes, still life, portraiture and sculptures. The emphasis of the gallery is on local content with 90% of exhibitions showcasing the breadth and depth of talent in the region.

Jill Shalless, resident artist and proprietor of art@wintergarden, shared some of the highlights of the last decade and the exhibitions coming up over the next few months.

Congratulations on ten years of Wintergarden! Which exhibitions of the last ten years stand out for you?

The 2013 sculpture show transformed the gallery and received amazing feedback, and has now become part of the annual exhibition programme. The 2nd Annual Sculpture Exhibition at art@wintergarden opens 5 September and runs until 29 September 2014. This year sees the return of many contributors along with many new sculptors bringing together 19 artists. Visitors can meander between the plinths and gaze across the balcony, taking in stunning glass wear, various textures of steel bronze and ceramics with concepts both humorous and thought provoking, a feast for the eyes.

A stand out memory of the last ten years is the Plein air field trips to Marysville, before and after the devastation of the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009. This led to two exhibitions validating the power of art as a vehicle to express and share deep emotions and memory.

I’m also proud that for seven consecutive years art@wintergarden has hosted an International Women’s Day exhibition and fundraiser.

The exhibition Le Jardin de ma mere was the first time we combined theatre and art, with booked out performances.

art@wintergarden has also hosted five consecutive years of Friday Printmakers exhibitions, the most recent in July 2014 was a resounding success.

Another highlight was the friends of Studio Girasole , a tribute exhibition celebrating the contributions of the late Bruno Callori.

The recent Ten 4 Ten exhibition was wonderful because it brought together some of the exceptional artists who’ve played a part in the gallery’s success over the last ten years, not only through their art, but their giving of time, ideas and friendship. The opening of Ten 4 Ten was a joyful celebration. Artists featured included Bruno Callori, Victoria Edgar, Lianne Gough, Mick Kupresanin, Jacinta Leitch, Mirjana Margetic, Faye Owen, Steve Parkhill, Louise Price and myself.

What are some other highlights and fondest memories for you at Wintergarden?

2012 saw art@wintergarden employ Chantelle Campbell as Gallery Assistant. This is an exciting development and she brings to the gallery a wealth of experience. Chantelle manages the social media, press releases, administration and supports myself enormously in an advisory capacity. Working at the gallery on Fridays, Chantelle’s contribution is a significant part of art@wintergarden’s success.

The Sculpture exhibition [currently showing during September] has been Chantelle’s brain child introducing some world renowned sculptors to our gallery along with emerging and familiar artists, due to her vast experience. Because of the success of the first dedicated Sculpture exhibition Chantelle once again put her skills to work and curated this second exhibition, bringing together more extraordinary contributors to mount a very impressive exhibition.

Being part of and watching the growth of Geelong’s art culture is extremely satisfying. Our focus remains on the world-class talent of the local art community. Being in a smaller community such as Geelong has made it easy to make close connections and friendships with other artists in the region. The great support, encouragement and ongoing patronage of the business has kept my enthusiasm to evolve and grow art@wintergarden.

In 2011 art@wintergarden received the Best Micro Business Award in the Geelong Advertiser Business Excellence Awards. This was a wonderful recognition of our commitment and achievements.

For five years I’ve also been involved with Council in submitting proposals for arts grants in conjunction with the Bluebird Foundation to present Masters in the Making, an exhibition for junior artists giving them an opportunity to reach for the stars. It is truly delightful to sit on my studio steps and chat with a young person and hear their ideas on art and be inspired by their enthusiasm. You never know what new door it may open.

The Wintergarden building, with its café and shops downstairs, has been a good fit for the gallery. Can you tell us about being part of Wintergarden?

The Wintergarden ambience adds a unique quality to the gallery and allows versatility of exhibitions, design markets and performing arts programs. Sometimes we’ve hosted music and theatre in conjunction with the artwork bringing a different sensibility to an exhibition. The compatibility of all businesses in The Wintergarden creates a complimentary clientele and sense of business community. The beautiful architecture has an extraordinary quality and continually delights visitors.

Wintergarden gallery view
Gallery view of art@wintergarden. (Image courtesy art@wintergarden)

Another part of the business is the studios. What’s it like having your studio located alongside the gallery? What are you currently working on in your own art?

art@wintergarden is a working studio space, as well as a gallery. The studio is the best space in the building with perfect south light. Despite being cosy, the adjacent mezzanine floor makes it feel extensive. The buzz of activity and interaction with the public is stimulating for me and painting in public breaks down the mystery of making art, I often find helpful comments are exchanged. Small classes and workshops are enjoyed by many here. Where else can you have roof top views from superb arched windows and coffee as required? My most recent body of work focussed on some of Geelong’s landscape features, such as the Barwon River, Botanic Gardens, Dog Rock’s and more. Currently I have some commission work to attend to and I’m exploring some art prize entries.

Jill Shalless_Nestled in a bed of Salvia
Jill Shalless, Nestled in a bed of salvias. (Image courtesy the artist.)
Jill Shalless_A day at the seaside
Jill Shalless, A day at the seaside. (Image courtesy the artist.)
Jill Shalless painting in her studio
Jill Shalless painting in her studio, upstairs in the Wintergarden building.

We also have other artists come in and give individual or small-group classes here. Currently we have Lucy Hardie presenting one-day drawing workshops.

What’s coming up during Spring and Summer at the gallery?

The last four months of 2014 will be huge for art@wintergarden, we have a wonderful program booked in.

I’m very excited about the 2014 Sculpture Exhibition from 5 – 29 September. Again the gallery will draw on outstanding artists from around regional and city centres throughout Victoria and interstate. These artists have employed varied mediums such as timber, steel, glass, stone and porcelain. [You can read about the inaugural 2013 sculpture exhibition here.]

This year’s exhibition features artists David and Lyn Dickson, Donal Molloy Drum, Cas Duff, Jia Xin Nong, Mark Cairns, Victoria Edgar, Brian Keyte, Jacinta Leitch, Philip Stokes, Deb Taylor, Stefan Nechwatal, Phillip Doggett-Williams, Gregor Wallace, Nadia Mercuri, Melinda Solly, Ana Hernandez Y Jensen, Steve Drew and Cinnamon and Rowan Stephens.

Core stoneware by Brian Kyete
Core stoneware by Brian Kyete. (Image courtesy art@wintergarden.)
Nadia Mercuri Trientalis Borialis
Nadia Mercuri, Trientalis Borialis. (Image courtesy the artist.)

In October, art@wintergarden will host the Waites Robson Stonemason 150th Anniversary Art Show, which also promises to be stunning.

Jo Kemerer Beautiful Sorrow
Joanne Kemerer, Beautiful Sorrow, created for the Waites Robson Stonemason 150th Anniversary Art Show. (Image courtesy the artist.)

In November, the gallery will present Red, artists exploring the pallette of Red. Themed exhibitions always show the diversity and extension of artistic ideas and possibilities.

December has become the month to focus on a specific Geelong icon or iconic view. Past themes have included the Eastern Beach steps, St Mary’s church, the You Yangs, and this year will showcase paintings of the Barwon River by regional artists.

This year was the seventh year of the Annual Gallery Program of monthly exhibitions. There’s still a lot of scope and support for art@wintergarden and I’m already looking towards 2015 for what we can offer. If only we could accommodate all of our ideas!

art@wintergarden
51 McKillop Street, Geelong
Open daily 10am – 4 pm
www.artwintergarden.com.au

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