OTHER SIGNIFICANT ARTISTS
As I undertook compiling, editing and designing volume one of the Society’s history in 2016, it became clear that many significant artists could not be accommodated within the framework I had set up in the book to provide an overview of the foundations and main affiliations and actors. I was determined to have the book as comprehensive as possible, and for it to be a complete publication in itself: hence the inclusion of a selection of artists from the Society’s first fifty years and the inclusion of profiles of all the Presidents and most of the significant officials and the Honorary Life Members of the Society.
The book worked well overall, but how could such a survey of South Australian art not include stalwarts of the Society who were not officials but had served on Council, some of them for decades, like Gwen Barringer, and other major artists like Margaret Preston, Dorrit Black, Horace Trenerry and Sir Ivor Hele? There were many more modern artists, especially after World War Two, of considerable importance, who should be recorded in such a history; and the current membership should also be considered and compete for inclusion.
With such thoughts in mind I put the idea of a second volume to the management and the Council, and they agreed but noted the stress the first publication had imposed on the Society’s limited means. I knew a second volume would be important in order to be thorough and to promote the Society and its contemporary relevance in the broader art community in South Australia. With a few exceptions — such as John Kay and William Maxwell, who might have been included in the first volume — this volume is mostly confined to the years since artists themselves have managed the Society, extending back to 1909. The inclusion of the two profiles mentioned does offer an opportunity to revise the background to the organisation here: in the case of Maxwell, his profile is not recorded in art history books elsewhere and is of particular interest to the Society because Past President and Honorary Life Member Dr John Dowie AM, Adelaide’s best sculptor of the 20th century, penned the article in Kalori, the society’s journal.
Although the Society does not usually receive grants from local arts funding authorities or the Federal government, it is important to consider the largesse of the State government in extending use over 160 years of the premises in the Institute Building.
In many respects this second volume is a better survey of the Society’s talent across its history, because it shows some of its most famous artists and gives a better idea about the vitality of the mid-late 20th century and the approaches of its contemporary membership. But where to stop, and who to include? Many discussions were undertaken and suggestions made in the Society’s office over 2016 and early 2017, but my brief from Bev Bills and Vikki Waller was to provide a wide spread of genres and media and to ensure that former and younger members were also included, being especially aware of prize winners in the Society’s major exhibitions and the impetus provided by the Youthscape programme.
The result is a book that cuts a cross-section through the current art scene in Adelaide. The two volumes, in combination including 300 chapters and over 1,050 images, provide a significant overview of art in South Australia since colonisation, and it is the first encyclopedia-like volume since 1969. It is hoped this volume, and its accompanying one from 2016, will both set standards and provide inspiration.
[Volume Two is scheduled for publication around November 2017]