“We are working on setting up a virtual gallery so that people can still have an experience of coming into the space and seeing all the artworks,” The Mill’s visual arts curator, Adele Sliuzas, tells InDaily.
“All of our artists’ livelihoods depend on people buying the artworks and so we still want people to be able to access the artworks for sale.”
This Friday was the scheduled launch date for the second edition of The Mill Showcase, an exhibition in a new gallery space dedicated to SA artists and makers who work in The Mill’s Angas Street studios.
However, the COVID-19 situation has forced the cancellation of the launch and total closure from the public.
“One of the ways that we, as an organisation, are responding at the moment [to COVID-19] is just to drive home the importance that we continue to support artists and art organisations during this time,” Sliuzas says.
She hopes The Mill Showcase virtual tour will be available soon, featuring work by furniture designer Andrew Eden, hat maker Blake Canham-Bennett, ceramicist Annabel Hume, and painter and tattoo artist Mark Mason.
“We’ll talk about that artist and what they do in the studio … talking about our artists as being businesses as well. And the materiality of the work, so all the little details that make everything really interesting.”
Sliuzas will guide the tour and talk about the artworks displayed in the new gallery, which opened with the first Showcase exhibition in January.
The Mill’s original exhibition space display changes monthly and features works from residency artists, while the Showcase gallery highlight artists who operate on a longer-term basis and create works under The Mill’s roof.
Among them is hat maker Blake Canham-Bennett, whose creations include a hand-embroidered hat made from Japanese textiles and crafted through a stitching technique known as sashiko.
“Blake makes these solid, beautiful brimmed hats,” Sliuzas explains.
“He’s using lots of cool materials that I’ve never even heard of, so rabbit fur, felt and beaver fur felt, but also this fur felt from an animal called a nutria [a large rodent].”
Hand poke tattoo artist Mark Mason operates out of The Mill’s XO L’Avant studio and will display in the Showcase four paintings that explore masculinity and his experience of being a father.
“It obviously relates quite closely to the kind of motifs that he uses within his tattoo practice,” Sliuzas says.
“Masculinity is more of a thread, which gets picked up within the practices of the artists, rather than a theme that I was working to.”
Ceramicist Annabel Hume’s current practice is focussed on creating sculptures, bowls and balls depicting colourful Australian animals, and she will exhibit a slate of offerings for the virtual tour. Her painted and sculpted animals include a thylacine (Tasmanian tiger), a Tasmanian devil, a spotted quoll and a numbat.
“After travelling to America three years ago, I began to really appreciate how delicate, unique, fragile and ancient Australia is, and I celebrate our endangered and diminishing fauna in my work,” Hume said in a statement.
Andrew Eden creates affordable furniture through collaborating with local manufacturers, traders and artists, and will display a stool, table and lounge chair. He believes “elaboration does not aggrandise beauty – simplicity does”.
The arts and culture sector nationwide has been hit hard by the impact of the coronavirus crisis, with other galleries also introducing or exploring the concept of virtual tours.
Sliuzas says COVID-19 has affected operations at The Mill because artists rely on talking to individuals to make sales, and social distancing makes cultivating these relationships more difficult.
“I guess it makes it a little bit trickier … all small businesses at the moment are really suffering in this economy, and it’s really hard for artists.”
The Mill aims to have its Showcase virtual tours available by this Friday – keep an eye on its website for updates. Purchases of art from the tour can be made through email@example.com.