While it might appear tiny, it’s amazing how vast and striking the contents of Beechworth’s Arcadia Gallery are. Owner Susan Reid describes the collection as pieces that are each connected in spirit; ‘hands, heart and mind,’ is a statement she uses to explain the feeling we experience upon stepping inside.
‘Everything here is made by one pair of hands,’ she says. ‘There’s also a lot of plant and botany in here but not necessarily botanical art, yet everything does have an earthy connection.’
Visiting Arcadia is an enriching experience, as the gallery takes viewers through a range of fine art and handmade craft products that together include a multi-layered list of textures: timber, fabric, botanics, bird feathers and textiles, plus virtually every medium art. We feel a positive energy simply from being within the space; the gallery feels like it has a soul.
Susan has a professional background in theatrical costume making, and has worked in both stage and screen in Australia and the USA. She explains, that while she temporarily gave up that creative part of her career to move to the country and raise her children and run the gallery, she’s never stopped making things with her hands – ‘this is definitely who I am,’ she says. More recently she’s stepped back into costume making, working with professional companies in Melbourne and Sydney, while continuing to curate an outstanding collection of individual art works that showcase fine skills, concept and composition.
Chiltern artist Kirrily Anderson’s work The Certain Unknown, 2016, pen and watercolour on paper, is a powerful image featuring a woman dressed in eucalyptus tree bark: hands clutching it with a firm grip. The female face is drawn with a softness of expression that combines beauty and determination. The style is virtually photorealistic with astonishing sharpness and clarity in the eyes, lips and hair; but a collage feel also intervenes, with the lower part of the woman’s bark dress resembling a cardboard cutout. The work evokes a connection to pieces, or sections of one’s own memory, perhaps in this case, through the artist’s attachment to the land and nature.
Wodonga based artist Abi Thompson’s Preservation and Protection (hero picture top of page), 2018, is a mixed media piece that began as a monoprint, to which the artist adds watercolour, pen and ink, gouache, building up colour and complex detail in the process. As a part of a series of works outlining the importance of local river red gum habitats, many Australian animals are included in the work, drawn with distinct clarity and strength.
Alison Percy’s Reclining Figure, in soft pastel and compressed charcoal, is a nude featuring wonderful lines and movement. While the artist is better known for her landscapes, Susan is featuring her figurative works – ‘a chance to be a little different – go a bit wild,’ Susan explains. The result is one of the most powerful and beautifully textured two dimensional offerings in the gallery.
But what’s on the wall in 2D is only part of the Arcadia Gallery vision. A central repurposed carpenter’s bench is layered in 3D items: handcrafted ceramics, soaps and skincare products, stone vases; plus lamps and knitwear also feature in the gallery. We pause to admire Myrtleford textile artist Erin Whitford’s felted wool nest sculptures, some housing a cluster of barn owl feathers – simply the most exquisitely designed natural-found objects ever.
The Jewellery also features with textured resin bangles by Clan Collective of Preston, Victoria – these mesmerise with waves of colour that form shapes and objects – whatever your mind creates. These like all gallery items, including the small selection of timber furniture pieces are individual, no two the same – and for the record, we just love the medieval back stool! Proving that fine things can come in tiny packages, it’s easy to see why Arcadia Gallery is amongst the region’s most appreciated.
Open Wed-Sun 10am-4pm,
closed Monday and Tuesday
14A Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
Tel 0412 126 391