Five albums in two nights

Adelaide’s Shaolin Afronauts will take to the stage at the Festival Centre next month to premiere the music from five – yes, five – new albums over two nights.

The 12-piece afro-soul ensemble was formed in 2008 by composer and electric bassist Ross McHenry, and the new five-album box set The Fundamental Nature of Being showcases the “spectrum of sounds” the musicians have developed over their time performing together.

The whole project was recorded over just five days in 2019. It is said to “draw on the band’s rich influence of 1970s West and South African music, jazz, psych-rock and soul, while also exploring the transatlantic intersection between 1960s electronic avant-garde and spiritual jazz”.

McHenry promises The Fundamental Nature of Being LIVE at the Space Theatre on September 16 and 17 ­– in which half the five-part release will be performed in full on one night and the other half the following night – will be something special: “I really feel like this body of new music captures what is special about our band. Its scope is very broad, but it also has managed to distil our whole approach into the most focussed offering we have put forward to date.”

The limited-edition five-LP box set will also be released next month (see more on the Afronauts’ Facebook page) and tickets for the live shows are on sale from today (here).

‘I can now call myself an artist’

South Australian artist and self-described “paint-brush warrior” Tom Phillips has been named as the 2022 Guildhouse Fellow, securing a 12-month fellowship valued at more than $50,000.

Phillips – whose work is on show this month in SALA’s 25th anniversary exhibition SILVER at the Queen’s Theatre ­– is an expressionist artist who creates works that capture experiences such as loneliness, vulnerability and hardship.

The Guildhouse Fellowship, awarded annually to a mid-career South Australian artist with the support of the James & Diana Ramsay Foundation, supports the creation of new work. It culminates in an exhibition outcome at the Art Gallery of SA.

“I see myself as a paint brush warrior and social commentator. As an artist, I believe art should say something about the world that we live in,” says Phillips, who was also the recipient of the 2021 SALA Festival Don Dunstan Foundation Award.

“The Guildhouse Fellowship will change my life, giving me the opportunity to further develop my painting technique and explore new subject matter, to work with curators and the Art Gallery of South Australia, and most importantly allow me to become a full-time painter, which has not been possible until now. I can now call myself an artist.”

Phillips gives more of an insight into his work in this In the Studio story published on InReview last year, and in the video below.

Previous Guildhouse Fellows are Troy-Anthony Baylis, Sera Waters and Liam Fleming, with Waters set to present an exhibition at AGSA this November that will demonstrate “how ancient textile traditions can craft hope in the face of climate change”.

New artistic director for chamber music festival

Musician Simon Cobcroft – principal cellist with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra – has been named the new artistic director of the Coriole Music Festival.

Cobcroft takes over the reins from Anna Goldsworthy, who has directed the chamber music festival since 2019 and presented her final event at McLaren Vale’s Coriole Vineyards in May.

“The past few years have presented unprecedented challenges to all humanity, and for musicians, the almost unthinkable prospect of prolonged silence and isolation,” he says. “In 2023, the Coriole Music Festival will reflect on the themes of exile, isolation and reunion, exploring the music that flows from those who, unwillingly or with alacrity, have embraced introspection and solitude.”

Anna Goldsworthy and Simon Cobcroft.

The full program for the 2023 festival will be announced later in the year, but Cobcroft says it will include works by Rachmaninov, Britten, Stravinsky, Finnish composer Olli Mustonen, Australian composers Paul Stanhope and Nigel Westlake, and a special commission from South Australian Anne Cawrse.

The life and times of Jeffrey Smart

A new documentary giving insight into the life and studio practice of Adelaide-born artist Jeffrey Smart will screen next week on ABC Plus and iview.

Directed and co-produced by freelance documentary maker Catherine Hunter – who has previously worked on docos about artists such as Margaret Olley, Trent Parke, Glenn Murcutt and Ben Quilty –  Jeffrey Smart incorporates archive material (including interviews with the artist and long-term partner Ermes De Zan), insights from portrait subjects and friends, and commentary from art scholars.

Smart studied at the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts (before later moving to Sydney and then Italy), and Hunter says the documentary features some of the places in SA that were important to his early work, such as Adelaide, Port Elliot, the Flinders Ranges and Wallaroo.

In 2006, Hunter and the film crew visited the artist at his farmhouse in Tuscany and also captured footage of places where he found inspiration near the Tuscan city of Arezzo.

The National Gallery of Australia recently presented a major retrospective celebrating the centenary of Smart’s birth, while the Art Gallery of South Australia last month announced it had acquired a significant work, The Argument, Prenestina, which he painted in Italy in 1982.

Jeffrey Smart will screen on ABC Plus / Channel 22 at 8.30pm on August 10, and will also be available on ABC iview.

Unceded Seeded

Guildhouse is hosting an event later this month to celebrate the launch of a new neon-based artwork by Brad Darkson that adorns the north side of its building in the Lion Arts Precinct.

Darkson, who recently spoke about his arts practice in this InReview story, was the recipient of the Voice of the Artist public art commission and consulted with senior Kaurna woman Aunty Lynette Crocker to create his work, Unceded Seeded (Ngampa).

Brad Darkson with Aunty Lynette Crocker outside the Guildhouse building.

As well as the words of its title, the artwork features an illustration of the ngampa (yam daisy), a perennial root vegetable that is a food staple for Kaurna people. It acknowledges that  Kaurna culture has always existed on the land where the building sits, with the use of neon said to act as a beacon of truth – “and in homage to the classic neon motel sign, the red and green allude to the aesthetic of ‘No Vacancy’.”

The launch event will be held from 2-4pm on August 21 at the Lion Arts Centre (tickets here).

Celebrating all things G&S

State Opera South Australia is promising lashings of satire and silliness in a G&S Fest announced for May 2023.

The company says the celebration of 19th-century British comedy opera will take place over two weekends, with the full program to be released next month.

“Not only is their [Gilbert and Sullivan’s] work some of the finest music and lyrics ever put to paper, but they shape everything that comes after them,” says artistic director Stuart Maunder. “We have no modern musical theatre, no Monty Python, and no filmmakers like Mike Leigh and Aaron Sorkin without the game-changing style of G&S.”

The festival is likely to be one of Maunder’s last events before leaving the company, after the recent announcement that he will step down in mid-2023 to take up a new role with Victorian Opera.

Green Room is a regular column for InReview, providing quick news for people interested, or involved, in South Australian arts and culture.

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