South Australian Living Artists festival shines light on regional talent

Regional artists are encouraging residents to connect with the creative culture in their towns as the 25th South Australian Living Artists Festival kicks off.

The festival — also known as SALA — shines a spotlight on living artists who are active in their respective communities, pushing regional residents to explore the creative talent in their own backyards.

And with a smorgasbord of exhibitions around the regions, country artists are providing you do not have to go to a capital city to see an array of high-quality arts.

Biezaite uses natural dyes from eucalyptus trees to color fleece.(Supplied: Jacqui Bateman)

Robe-based textile artist Kristi Biezaite, who moved from Latvia to Robe about 12 years ago, is showing her work at a local winery as part of an exhibition celebrating the beauty of nature.

She works with natural fibers like fleece and processes them into shawls and tapestries before adorning them with natural dyes from eucalyptus trees.

“SALA basically creates a situation where you can go local — you don’t have to go to the capital cities to go to an art gallery or a museum,” Biezaite said.

“You can see the art locally, which makes it accessible to everyone.”

A serious-looking woman wearing a green hat holding a chicken stands against a tree on green grass.
Biezaite says SALA provides regional artists with an opportunity to share their work.(Supplied: Kristi Biezaite)

Shining a spotlight on homegrown artists

Artists from the Bedford Day Options center in Port Lincoln are displaying their pieces at the festival for the third year, fast becoming a staple feature of the SALA line-up.

Artist Cary Marcal said his piece on display was representative of the Aboriginal flag, celebrating his sister’s culture.

“The important thing to me is that my sister is Aboriginal, and I’ve done that for my sister,” he said.

Meanwhile, artist Aaron Dennis used his hands to paint his piece and said he enjoyed working with his mates while exploring a new method of painting.

Four people posing behind an art work of hand prints that represents the Aboriginal flag.
Dennis (front left) says it was fun working with his mates to create his exhibition piece.(Supplied: Bedford Day Options)

The Riverland Artist’s Hub showcases local works all year round at its shopfront in Renmark, but textile artist Glenys Leske said SALA opened up new opportunities to discover emerging artists.

“Sometimes we can be very insular in our art practices, so it’s nice to get out there and mix with others and see different ways of working,” she said.

A woman is leaning on a table, smiling.  There are artworks behind her.
Leske says connecting with artists helps people learn the stories behind the works.(ABC News: Sophie Landau)

In just the opening week of the festival, Leske has already discovered new artists whose works she would like to display at the hub, broadening the scope of locals getting noticed within the Riverland region.

“There’s some really amazing artwork out there that makes me think, ‘I’d like to approach them and have a chat and see what we can do’, because we do try to encourage the diversity in here,” she said.

An artwork of two ducks exploring space.
Wannon has illustrated a fantasy universe as part of an immersive exhibition titled Welcome to the Lands of the River(Supplied: Sam Wannan)

Multidisciplinary Adelaide-based artist Sam Wannan previously lived in Whyalla and said art helps to understand a region’s identity.

Mr Wannan was exhibiting his work at Part of Things in Barmera and on the Karoonda silos throughout the festival and said it had been great to collaborate with other regional artists.

“The more that regional artists can connect with each other and share their work and celebrate what it means to be an artist, the better,” he said.

“Having lived in the arts world in Whyalla, I know the significance of artwork and how it builds the sense of cultural, local identity in place.”

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