Each year, the Helpmann Academy offers several residency opportunities with dedicated studio facilities. These range from opportunities with local spaces through to significant international residencies. Countless emerging artists have benefitted from these incubator environments and have gone on to forge prolific careers.

One residency Helpmann offers, with generous support from the Macquarie Group, is the Helpmann Academy ACE Studio Residency, awarded at the annual Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition. The residency is part of the ACE Studio Program, which provides professional development opportunities including studio visits with Australian and international curators, participation in public programs, mentorship by Adelaide Contemporary Experimental curatorial staff, and prominent profiling and promotional opportunities.

Teresa Busuttil, ACE studio, 2023. Photo: Thomas McCammon

In 2023, emerging artist Teresa Busuttil (UniSA) has been the Helpmann Academy ACE Studio resident. Henry Wolff, Helpmann Academy engagement coordinator, sat down with Busuttil to discuss her experience of the program.

The ACE Studio residency was awarded to you at this year’s Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition. What impact has access to a studio at ACE meant for you and your professional development?

It has been such a big year for me since being awarded the studio. My studio practice has become a big commitment. Having the space to collect materials, make a mess and express myself has been an absolute game-changer for me. Both professionally and personally, being awarded the studio has really allowed for a lot of growth.

Many people may be familiar with your moving image and photographic works, but this year your practice has taken a strong turn towards sculptural and installation practice. What has prompted this evolution? And how do you see this developing further as you progress in your career?

Having the space really prompted me to become more physical in my practice. As I was setting up the studio, I kept collecting more and more things and it grew from there.

In terms of the future, I just want to let myself make whatever I feel like and try not to get stuck worrying about being a moving-image artist or a sculpture artist. I’m a resourceful person, so I like to make do with whatever I have on hand. Through COVID, that tended to be more digital.

You tend to explore family history and fantasy through your works – in what ways has this surfaced in your studio developments this year?

Having the studio, I really allowed myself to go deep into some of my inquiries. Previously I have made work which is about being Maltese-Australian and the legacy of that, but I thought a lot more about those stories and framing them in a political context.

I’ve been thinking a lot about class, authority, power, and corruption at different levels. It’s been personally challenging and rewarding work. The work I have been making is still about my family history, but I’ve opened up a bit.

You’ve been creating objects that feature an array of materials, from shellcraft and wax bongs, through to incorporating found objects like a concrete fountain. What inspires your choice of materials? How do you find these materials come to meet with your concepts or the forms you’re creating?

It’s always different – the shell work is something I’ve always been really drawn to; it’s a nice balance between ocean kitsch and religious symbolism. The bong I made from soap because I had ideas around cleanliness and purity, so I thought they were a nice juxtaposition.

I’m always looking for concepts or materials that are on such different ends of the spectrum they’re almost the same again.

Teresa Busuttil, Asleep with the Fishes, 2023. Photo: Jessica Maurer

As part of the ACE Studio Program, participants are invited to pitch for an exhibition at Firstdraft in Sydney. You were the successful recipient this year and have just presented the exhibition Asleep with the fishes. What has this experience been like?

It was such an awesome experience. I’ve been really supported by ACE and Firstdraft in creating the work. I’ve fallen in love with Sydney.

The work I created mixed together different symbols that reference Malta and Catholicism; there was a lot of stone, coloured light, and drug references. I was bringing together my memories, personal beliefs and family history, and making up my own fantasy folklore or culture, I guess.

At the end of each year, ACE presents its studio exhibition with works from artists participating in the studio program. What artworks have you been developing for this exhibition?

I’m presenting a version of the work developed for Firstdraft. I’m really excited to see it in conversation with the other artists at ACE.

How important do you feel opportunities like this studio residency are for local emerging artists?

It’s career-altering to be supported to spend time in the studio. I wouldn’t have had the resources to make work this year without this opportunity, especially coming out of university. So, very important!

Adelaide Contemporary Experimental’s upcoming group exhibition, Studios: 2023, showcases new commissions by ACE’s five 2023 Studio Program artists: Teresa Busuttil, Georgia Button, Brad Darkson, Jennifer Mathews and Truc Truong. It will open on Saturday, November 11, and continues until December 16.

The Helpmann Academy ACE Studio Program is proudly supported by the Macquarie Group.

Henry Wolff is a visual artist and arts worker living and working on Kaurna Country.

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