The Vivian Gallery – an ending and a beginning

The Vivian Gallery’s annual ‘360˚ Small Show’ celebrates its fifth anniversary this year, opening on 4 November. Each year, pre-Christmas, many of the Vivian artists create special small pieces specifically for this exhibition. It’s an unmissable chance to buy affordable art, and perfect too for those of us with smaller spaces. The show finishes on December 10 – plenty of time to pick up your new art and wrap it for Christmas. 

This is followed by ‘State of Play’ which opens on December 16 and runs to the end of January. This year-end exhibition is also becoming something of a Vivian institution, showcasing new directions from around a dozen artists. This year we’ll see work from Simon McIntyre, Cathy Carter, Vicky Fanning, Robert Fraser, Paul Maseyk, Wayne Youle, Richard Lewer, Chris Charteris, Vivienne Worn, Hannah Valentine, Reuben Paterson, David McCracken and Garry Currin.

Chris Charteris has been a carver for over 25 years. His heritage is Kiribati, Fijian and English; he works with pounamu, rock and bone. His work is titled ‘Powerpoint Presentations’. Inspired by the phrase ‘contemporary artefact’, and a recent trip through several different countries. Chris has transformed whale spinal discs into giant versions of wall sockets to create arresting new forms of a familiar household item.

Reuben Paterson is another welcome guest at the Vivian. His exuberant art is characterised by the use of glitter and diamond dust and hangs in many major galleries across Australasia. His new work promises delight: works on paper which focus on his love for both floral blooms and fireworks. “I’m often reminded of one when I see the other,” he says. “These new pieces are my way of merging the two.” 

Local glass and ceramic artist Vicki Fanning’s ongoing obsession with glass has its roots in the invisible interactions we have with it every day. “It could be said that we’re now in the Glass Age,” says Vicki. “From computer technology to lasers, lenses and even medicine – the western world couldn’t function without it.” Her latest work is informed by the way glass has enabled the mechanics of new anthropological paradigms: the social networks we now take for granted are facilitated by glass, delivered to us via fibre optic cables and in screens on phones and laptops.

December is a time of reckoning for the Vivian Gallery itself. The gallery has a new director, local branding guru and art collector Scott Lawrie. Scott trained as an artist at the Edinburgh College of Art (BA Hons in Drawing and Painting and a Master of Philosophy) and has nurtured a long-held dream to open his own gallery. To say he’s excited about owning the Vivian would be something of an understatement – he’s positively effervescent!

In a speech which opened Peter Panyoszki’s October exhibition, Scott paid tribute to the vision and achievement of the previous owner, Helen Crosby, who has worked alongside Sandy Meharry and Mandy Thomsett-Taylor since the Vivian’s inception five years ago. Sandy and Mandy continue at the gallery in expanded versions of their previous roles. 

Scott sees the Vivian becoming a real destination to discover and learn more about art in the region. “We’ll be showing a much wider range of contemporary art in different spaces within the gallery,” he says. “We’ll bring in curators to tackle some of the bigger art questions, and invite international and young, emerging artists to exhibit, too. We’re rebranding in January, and you’ll see some quite different shows.” 

The outside area will include more sculpture – but with a twist, Scott says, with a twinkle. “Ultimately we want the space to be a place where people can connect to contemporary art in accessible, intelligent ways, while always enjoying the warm welcome that’s so unique to the Vivian.”