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Science meets Art at Mrs Harris' Shop
'Wind Farm', hand coloured photopolymer etching by Mary Pulford
There are always so many good things on offer during the SALA (South Australian Living Artists') Festival that it's getting harder and harder to decide where to go. Luckily many of the shows are on for a lot longer than a week or a fortnight, but you have to be careful to check whether they are open on weekdays or just weekends. The exhibition 'Catalyst' at Mrs. Harris' Shop in Jervois St, Torrensville, is one example of a 'weekends only' venue, and as it's not in a busy street it's in danger of being overlooked unless we spread the word. But it's well worth seeking out!
Mrs Harris' Shop has been a landmark in Jervois Street, Torrensville for eighty years. It has been operated by three successive generations of women who married into the Harris family.
The original Mrs. Harris outside the original shop
In 1932, Dorothy Harris built and opened the little general store after having worked a similar shop across the street. She ran the shop until her husband died in 1958. As well as undertaking much of the construction work on the shop, he was a talented painter. Dorothy was succeeded by her daughter-in-law, Rae, who closed the store in 1970 when, like hundreds of tiny suburban shops, it fell victim to the supermarket explosion.
Now, Rae's daughter-in-law Jo has re-opened the shop, this time as a gallery showcasing art and craft. Even after having been closed for several decades, the little shop in Jervois Street is still fondly remembered by many locals as 'Mrs Harris' Shop', so it seemed appropriate to continue to use this name in its new incarnation. Jo has retained the original look of the shop – it still advertises cakes for sale, although so far home-made cakes have not been among the exhibits.
There is a sense of things having come 'full circle' with the rebirth of the little store and the role that art is once again playing in the environment. Jo is particularly keen to support emerging and regional artists who might otherwise find it difficult to exhibit in the city.
Two of the printmakers exhibiting at Catalyst, Mei Sheong Wong and Elizabeth Banfield
Most of the artists have just taken their work down from another exhibition, Inked2, which finished at Urban Cow last week. But this time three other members of the Bittondi Printmakers Association have added their perspective to what turns out to be a very different kind of show.
Catalyst' is an exhibition with a science theme, and this is the second time Bittondi have shown their work at Mrs. Harris during SA's Science Week. The show was opened on Friday night by Simon Langsford, the former Senior Education Officer at the SA Museum. He was intrigued by the way the artists have been inspired to work with this theme, which was about exploring and interpreting areas of science that may change the way we look at the world.
Elizabeth Banfield, Geoff Gibbons, Amanda Hassett, Vicki Hunter, Mary Pulford, Sarah Thame, Julia Wakefield, Kay Walker, Ann Whitby, Mei Sheong Wong and Wendy Wright have risen to the challenge, each with their own unique take on the theme.
From the quirky to the serious, these eleven artists have made us think about science in some new and often very beautiful ways. I took most of these pictures through glass at the exhibition, but I hope they still convey the magic of the printmaker's art.
Elizabeth Banfield, Linocut with hand stitching and paper cutting Gampi Silk Tissue stitched to Rives paper
Elizabeth Banfield's intricate linocuts are printed on tissue paper which is cut to reveal layers behind, and stitched to the supporting paper. Her work is always about the natural world, so this close-up image of a seed kernel fits very well with the 'catalyst' theme.
Other artists used the idea of looking closely at the world, as though through a microscope.
Geoff Gibbons' etching of a magnified mosquito lava is strangely haunting and beautiful, even though the subject itself has been the source of so much human suffering.
Kay Walker's series, 'Talking with Bees' is at once beautiful and marvellous, drawing our attention to the genius of scientists who can glue microchips to the backs of bees so that they can track their movements in order to study pollination and hopefully discover the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder.
'Noble Hero', photopolymer etching on chine collee by Kay Walker
Mary Pulford continues to delight viewers with her quirky mice, this time putting them to work to remind us of some of the most pressing matters that pre-occupy scientists today – one of the biggest problems is general public ignorance of scientific matters.
'Evolution', handcolooured photopolymer etching by Mary Pulford
One of my favourites was Wendy Wright's small etchings of plankton that are threatened by the annual thinning of the arctic ice: they glow through the glass at us like the real creatures that are in fact too small for the naked eye to see.
Detail from a collection of small etchings by Wendy Wright
This sinister image by Amanda Hassett points out the benefits of hindsight – the 'plague doctor' in his protective mask filled with herbs, imagined that he could avoid catching diseases by inhaling herbal fragrances. We now know that the microbes in the petri dish in the corner of this picture are the true villains responsible for the spread of plagues.
'Y. Pestis', etching with copper sulphate on aluminium by Amanda Hassett
Zooming from the micro to the macro, Vicki Hunter has endeavoured to capture the moment when Australian scientists discovered a 12.6 billion year old star. She has combined a collagraph, using card, glue and found textures to create a plate that is printed in the same way as an etching, with drypoint - a traditional method made popular by Rembrandt - in Perspex, a product of modern technology.
'supernova', collagraph with drypoint on perspex by Vicki Hunter
There are many other intriguing images in this exhibition, which is one of those rare treasures – an art exhibition that not only inspires, but makes you think.
Catalyst is on every weekend until August 31, from 11am to 3pm, and it is stewarded by the artists themselves, so there will always be someone on hand to explain the techniques. If you are interested in learning more about how the printmaker works, the Bittondi Print Studio in Aberfoyle Park is open to visitors on two Sundays, August 24 and 31, from 12 noon to 4pm. You can find it in your SALA program – number 284. You can not only inspect the presses and ask the artists as many questions as you like about the various printmaking media – you can even book in to have a go yourself at one of the workshops that Bittondi run regularly for interested people. Go to Bittondi's Facebook page for details of the next workshop.
On August 24, at 1pm, you can have the added pleasure of listening to a performance by local band the Cherry Pickers while you tour the exhibition.
To exhibit in Mrs Harris' Shop, please contact her via the website or call on 0452 614 613.
As a young lad I used to buy an iceblock from Mrs. Harris in the 1940`s and 50`s. She made them with milk, they were pink and served in little square cups. They cost tuppence each and were delicious! Mrs. Harris was a lovely, kind lady with grey hair. I lived in Clifford St just around the corner.