Adelaide Biennial 2024: Inner Sanctum – Navigating Contemporary Australian Art

Lillian O’Neil | The Place We Dissolve
Lillian O’Neil, The Place We Dissolve (2023). Source: AGSA

The 18th Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, titled Inner Sanctum, offers a reflective snapshot of contemporary Australian art. The exhibition explores light’s properties and its interaction with the natural world and artistic expression.

The exhibition encompasses both private and sacred spaces individuals create in their homes and communities as well as the imaginative faculty that allows us to perceive culture and society differently. The theme responds to the pandemic’s impact, highlighting the ways people formed sanctuaries during lockdowns.

Curator José Da Silva deliberately steers away from overtly political themes, opting for a more contemplative and introspective approach. He describes the exhibition as a “tender” show, seeking to provide a space for reflection and imagination rather than conforming to conventional expectations of art.

Da Silva keeps the exhibition simple, working directly with artists to create a cohesive and intimate experience. The 24 featured artists present diverse interpretations through paintings, poetry, video installations, and music.

As visitors enter the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA), the use of light becomes immediately apparent, with George Cooley’s expansive work, “My Painted Country,” capturing the vivid hues of the Kanku-Breakaways in northern South Australia. The exhibition weaves through the gallery, creating unexpected connections between pieces, such as Cooley’s paintings in dialogue with historical works.

Artists like Clara Adolphs explore light in painted reproductions of found photographs, and Nik Pantazopoulos play with color in drawings of doors. Various works explore themes such as time, atmosphere, memory, and the impact of humans on nature.

The culmination of the exhibition, encapsulated in works like Jessica Loughlin’s “Solari,” encourages viewers to slow down, take time, and savor the art. There is an optimistic focus on love, featuring Heather B Swann’s installation representing fading memories and Paul Knight’s exploration of artificial intelligence’s capacity to understand human love.


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