b. Palmer Sculpture Biennial 2020

Call for Expressions of Interest


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Greg Johns – Seaing The Land – Feeling The Land (Shedding Figure), 2006       Photograph by Greg

Dear Artists
You are invited to submit an Expression of Interest to participate in the Ninth Palmer Sculpture Biennial. The exhibition will be open for the four weeks from March 14th to April 12th 2020 and will be an item in the Adelaide Festival Fringe.
It will be curated by myself and Robert Lindsay, former Director of McClelland Museum, Victoria. We are very grateful to Robert for assisting again; to have curators of the calibre of Robert and Ken Scarlett on board can only strengthen our Biennial. Robert and Ken Scarlett have recently written a major monograph on the deceased Victorian sculptor Vincas Jomantas; without such efforts these important sculptors’ contribution to sculpture can be lost. Published by Beagle Press we recommend to all interested in the serious side of Australian sculpture.
About twenty four artists will participate from South Australia, interstate and overseas, including an invited senior artist and two emerging artists.
Since they first started in 2004, the Palmer Sculpture Biennials have been steadily gathering momentum. The emphasis is on quality, not the size of the exhibition. 2018 was a wonderful year. The event is now recognised nationally as a significant sculpture exhibition which is now historically one of the longest running sculpture shows in Australia. It won the Bank SA Award for Best Visual Art and Design at the Adelaide Festival Fringe in 2016, the second time it has done this. An artist`s run event, the regular participation of overseas sculptors speaks well of an exhibition that is also an experience, the landscape, the sculpture, the music and of course the people making it more than an exhibition.
I look forward to receiving your submissions for 2020.

Kind regards,
Greg Johns.

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Palmer landscape                                                                                                Photograph by Jan Clifford

The Palmer Landscape

The small township of Palmer sits at the base of the hills which terminate in the eastern escarpment of the Mount Lofty Ranges, after which the land slopes away towards the River Murray. This region is the edge of the Mallee country. Its hills are semi-arid with spacious undulations, rocky outcrops and views of distant horizons. The indigenous flora of the area has been almost entirely cleared since European settlement, leaving just patches of remnant vegetation. The traditional custodians of country are the Peramangk and the area has a rich Aboriginal history. It is now used mostly for mixed farming, cropping and grazing.

The Palmer Project
In 2001 Adelaide sculptor Greg Johns purchased a 400 acre property in the Palmer Hills, about 70 km east of Adelaide. Greg’s intention for the property is to undertake its ecological rehabilitation and to display a collection both of his own works and of a range of other contemporary sculpture. The Landscape is now progressing towards its pre-European state and the resulting terrain, so reminiscent of landscapes in Australia’s vast semi-arid areas, is a potent setting for art works that are sensitive to place. The Palmer Project allows sculpture and environment to illuminate each other, and in so doing it reflects the broader range of issues relating to art and ecological and social sustainability.


Palmer Sculpture Biennial

Commencing in 2004, eight Biennial Exhibitions have been held in the Palmer Landscape and the event has become recognised as a leading contemporary sculpture exhibition. Previous Biennials have won a Bank SA award for Best Visual Art and Design at the Adelaide Festival Fringe, an Advertiser Oscart for best outdoor exhibition, four SA Great nominations in the categories of art and science/environment and an Adelaide Fringe award for best group visual arts exhibition during the Adelaide Fringe. Visitor numbers are now in the vicinity of 1,000 and increased media attention and promotional initiatives are expected to draw even larger numbers in 2020.
The Biennial has received significant publicity at both state and national levels. It is also established internationally as an event of high quality, artists from England, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and Sweden making a valuable contribution and complementing the work of the Australian artists.
The opening event has become a particular attraction, incorporating food, wine, speeches and a verandah music event in addition to the unique experience of engaging with works of sculpture against the background of the Palmer Hills. The Biennial receives private sponsorship which has enabled the production of a high quality catalogue and meets some other overhead costs; it is expected this will continue. Artists meet all costs involved with exhibiting their works (including travel). Works can be made available for sale (20% commission applies) and significant sales have occurred.
The Palmer Sculpture Biennial is and will remain an artist run event. The mutual support surrounding the event has been enjoyed by everyone and is a major contributor to its success. There is an ‘artist’s award’ for the best works based on peer recognition for which the artists contribute $10 each. Artists will be asked to take part in a staffing roster while the Biennial is open and other organisational activities, for instance opening-day catering, publicity and promotion etc.
Bill Clifford (contact details below) is assisting Greg in the administration of the Palmer Project and will be coordinating the exhibition.

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Palmer Landscape                                                                                               Photograph by Jan Clifford

What Interested Artists Need to Know about the Palmer Landscape

Ambiance: Seen against the rugged vegetation and the expanse of landform and skyscape, works at Palmer stand out with a unique authority not to be found in galleries. In this setting, they may also look smaller than they do in a studio or suburban environment. At the same time, smaller intimate works have often engaged with the landscape very successfully.
Winds: Works need to be well anchored and able to withstand the strong winds which often visit the Palmer Landscape.
Water: While the annual rainfall at Palmer is comparatively low, sudden downpours may occur at any time of year. Water-soluble materials are therefore not advisable unless intended for ephemeral works.
Heat: Although the Biennial takes place in early autumn, heatwaves are still possible, so artworks need to be able to withstand strong direct sunlight and possible temperatures of around 40C.

Expression Requirement

The requirement to express interest in the event is to submit a concept outline with supporting drawing/documentation on an A4 page/s after a visit to the site. Interstate/overseas artists should discuss alternatives to this requirement with Greg. Times will be arranged for artists who haven’t already been to Palmer to visit in groups, and to register for this please contact us. Submissions can be made by email to palmersculpturebiennial@gmail.com, or by mail to Bill Clifford, 1 Elizabeth Street, Oakbank, South Australia 5243.
Please ensure that your expression of interest includes your name, postal address, email address and phone contact numbers. Expressions of Interest are required by Saturday 1st June, 2019. We will advise participation as soon as practicable after then.
Images of previous works may be viewed at http://www.palmersculpturebiennial.org
For further information, please contact Greg by email (gjoh4899@bigpond.net.au) or phone (08) 8278 3273; or Bill by email (jandbclifford@internode.on.net) or phone (08) 8398 0868. You may also visit our website, palmersculpturebiennial.org.


Greg Johns and Bill Clifford January 2019



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