The art of life on the land

Alysha Sparks stands bare foot in her studio applying liberal layers of acrylics, Posca markers and spray paints to a canvas.

With son Bodhi on her hip or playing at her feet underneath a growing baby belly, colour by colour, layer by layer, the talented self-taught artist brings South Australia’s landscapes to life with a modern twist.

For the girl brought up in the bush with a keen eye for colour, her passions come to life on canvas and be it human, bovine, botanical or landscape, Alysha has a talent for capturing something special.

Also a gifted photographer, she has a knack for encapsulating the personalities of the families she frames, and the raw character of the farm animals in front of her lens.

Right at home in the paddock are some of Alysha Sparks’s art works flanked by a few of her subject matters.

“My work is fairly eclectic I guess,” Alysha says.

“I paint cattle and birds but then do abstract florals and landscapes as well, I guess my style is a modern take on traditional.

“The florals give me the freedom to use any colours I want and everyone loves flowers, they make you feel happy and last a lot longer than the real thing.

“As for the cattle, they have so much personality, each one is individual and I love seeing them evolve on the canvas.”

Much of Alysha’s inspiration is sourced from the natural colour of the landscape, and now with a drone camera as well, she is given a different perspective from the sky to translate onto canvas in her studio at Jamestown in SA’s Mid North, about 2.5 hours from Adelaide.

Alysha’s works will feature in an exhibition in Adelaide’s Hyde Park as part of the 2018 SALA Festival.

“The colours and textures take on a new perspective from the sky and out in the country there’s such pretty light, you get those beautiful colours coming through,” she says.

“I see a colour combination I like and snap away on the camera, take it back to the studio and start creating inspired by it, and apply it to my landscapes.”

It was her mother who first bought a 13-year-old Alysha a blank canvas and paints, giving her the freedom to experiment with colours and styles and eventually develop her own niche.

The daughter of sheep, cropping and export hay farmers, Alysha has the country in her blood.

Like so many others before her, Alysha was keen to spread her wings, moving to the city and then travelling the world, but love eventually brought her ‘home’ to Jamestown and ultimately back to her roots.

With partner Tom – a local stock agent – Alysha has embraced country life again and it is not uncommon to see her out, boots on, son Bodhi in tow, helping Tom at the sheep yards or travelling across country with him.

It is all part of her inspiration, and as much as she has wholeheartedly returned to her roots, she is grateful for the community’s welcome back into its fold.

Alysha’s modern take on traditional landscapes looking right at home.

“We came back to Jamestown five years ago, the community has really embraced my art work and photography and they’ll come to me to buy my art or have their family photos, both because they like my work and because they want to support local,” Alysha says.

“The people have been so embracing and lovely, and that’s part of why my business is going so well.”

The shop local ethos is not lost on Alysha who works alongside local framer Clive Palmer in Jamestown to finish her works, and Daniel Blackman at Blackman Gallery in Clare who she entrusts to create “world class reproduction prints”.

“Local is best, if they support me, I support them,” Alysha says.

“It’s really just about everyone supporting each other.”

While she relishes her country life, the road to Adelaide is also a well-worn path for Alysha who regularly makes the trip to deliver her art to clients as well as restocking her ongoing exhibits at The Gallery on Waymouth Street in the city.

Locally her works are on show at café Bindlestick in Jamestown, and at Atore gift shop in Melrose, as well as through her website,

Alysha has an exhibition, Native, on show at Toop and Toop at King William Road, Hyde Park in Adelaide, as part of the SALA festival until the end of August.

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Best places to find SALA art where you’ll least expect it

Cemeteries, airports and distilleries aren’t places usually brimming with art, but works forming this year’s 2018 South Australia Living Artists (SALA) Festival will be hard to miss.

The annual festival kicks off on August 1 and runs until August 31, with a ground-breaking 9000 artists taking part in more than 700 exhibitions and events across metropolitan Adelaide and regional South Australia.

Aside from the usual galleries, museums, libraries and cafés, some unsuspecting locations will also show paintings, sculptures and creations.

“Art doesn’t have to hang on gallery walls or be hard to access,” says SALA festival director Penny Griggs.

“This year’s program reflects the diversity and inclusivity of the SALA Festival.

“We are thrilled that 9000 people will showcase their unique concept of living art to the people of SA.”

Here’s five places to find SALA art where you’ll least expect it!


1. Distilleries

Sip a G&T and enjoy contemporary abstract works exploring “the passionate collision of emotions and colour” at Prohibition Liquor Co in the Adelaide’s CBD.

Artist Katie Spry’s works will be on show at this Gilbert Street craft spirits producer, which recently took a sweep of awards both here and overseas. 

Catch Katie’s exhibition Colour Ascension from August 2-30.

Regional SA isn’t immune to SALA festivities, nor has escaped spirit fever.

Most of the state’s best spirit producers are based in regional areas, including in Renmark, where Twenty Third Street Distillery can be found.

The Riverland distillery will host There is no place like home featuring works by five artists exploring what home means no matter how little or much you have.

For those wandering through the Barossa, the Barossa Distilling Company in Nuriootpa is showing Botanical by Lottie Rosenzweig.

Spot her quirky embroidered Italian line wall hangings and illustrations.

Drove to the airport to get my art on 🖼 #salacitizen #universalcitizen #sala

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2. Adelaide Airport

Photos, paintings and computer generated imagery will take over the Adelaide Airport this SALA Festival for Universal Citizen. 

The installations created by eight talented SA artists will be on display until September 23.

SA institutions the SAHMRI building and the Adelaide Central Market will also make an appearance.

Artists include Aida Azin, Liam Bosecke, Tracy Lymn, Kaspar Schmidt Mumm, Brianna Speight, Harry Thing, Dan Withey, and Emmaline Zanelli.

Adelaide Airport processes more than eight million passengers a year, so it’s fair to say that thousands of people will view these works!


3. Cemeteries

There’s probably no better place to contemplate life and art than in a cemetery.

Adelaide’s largest cemetery, Centennial Park, has a sculptural SALA walk featuring works by 13 artists.

The pieces are scattered throughout the park and tranquil gardens, and visitors can also explore the cemetery’s permanent art installations.

In another SALA event, community artist Koruna Schmidt Mumm has been working with the Friends of Walkerville Wesleyan Cemetery and St Andrew’s Primary School on activating the historic Wesleyan Cemetery.

From August 9–17, visitors can explore the ideas of what lies below, who the buried citizens are, and how cemeteries are viewed by modern society.


4. Tattoo parlour

Black Diamond Tattoo studio in Port Adelaide isn’t just about inking up – it’ll also host a series of Aboriginal artworks by Anangu woman Elizabeth Close for SALA 2018.

Using a fusion of contemporary and traditional Aboriginal art styles, Elizabeth has collated new works and old favourites for her solo exhibition Red Dust Rough Diamond.

Prints will be for sale at the launch on August 10, with mulled wine and cider on offer.

A live smoking ceremony will unfold, as will live tattooing featuring designs by Elizabeth.

You can also spot Elizabeth’s street art on Adelaide’s inner city walls.

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5. The pub

Adelaide-based artist Luke Thurgate will lead participants on an art pub crawl where participants can “draw under the influence”.

The 18+ Sketchy Art Tour is an interactive art event that will explore drawing in a number of bars and watering holes across Adelaide’s CBD.

The crew will depart the Grace Emily Hotel on Friday, August 24, at 7pm. It’s free!

Luke is also hosting a separate SALA event, Date Night Tour, departing the Howling Owl bar on August 17, at 7pm.

Get new sparks flying or rekindle the flame as you bar hop across the city while drawing and enjoying a tipple or two. Also free!

For those wanting a traditional art fix:

  • Head to the Lenzerheide Restaurant in Adelaide’s southern suburbs to spot painting and photography exhibition, Apokalypsis. Featuring works by Corey Gray and Peter Hall, the exhibition aims to reveal the “public, private and secret immersions of our everyday lives”. Corey will also unveil his commissioned work of Australian comedy legend, Dave Flanagan. The launch is on August 3, but the exhibition continues until the end of the month.
  • The West Gallery Thebarton gathered 13 of the state’s most innovative contemporary artists and asked them what drives them to paint. The result is APPROACHES |13 SA Contemporary Painters on display at the gallery until September 2. There will be an artist talk on Saturday, August 18, 2pm.

For the full SALA program and further details head here.

Header image: SALA Still Life Tour Clare Valley, 2017, photo by Sam Roberts.

Paranormal research office cracks open Adelaide’s ghost tales

By Melissa Keogh

Take a wander along Pirie Street in Adelaide’s CBD and you might come across an ouija board, two pairs of Ghostbusters-style overalls and a slight air of eeriness.

But it’s all in the name of research … and art.

A paranormal research office has been installed next to the Adelaide City Council and it’s inviting people to share their spooky stories.

The concept is both a participatory art project – made humorous by the spooky props – and a genuine paranormal research office offering consultation on hauntings and unexplained happenings.

The Department of Non-Corporeal Affairs forms part of the 2017 SA Living Artists (SALA) Festival and is hosted in the Art Pod, an arts engagement initiative of the Adelaide City Council.

The pair behind the ghostly project is the council’s emerging curator Andrew Purvis and artist Sasha Grbich.

Image courtesy of Department of Non-Corporeal Affairs.

Sasha Grbich and Andrew Purvis are researching paranormal activities in Adelaide. Image courtesy of Department of Non-Corporeal Affairs.

Andrew says more than 50 people have dropped by the office since it opened in August.

However, the team is so far only researching one ghostly case, involving a candle that lights by itself in a house in Dulwich.

On a desk at The Department of Non-Corporeal Affairs is the culprit candle, along with a photo of the candle mysteriously burning in the house.

With access to the council’s archive department, including land titles, the research office will try to uncover the history of the building and its past occupants.

The mysterious candle is on display in the art pod.

The mysterious candle is on display at the art pod.

“The idea was that ghosts and the supernatural connect us with history,” Andrew says.

“We aren’t interested in doing this to scare people, we want to know what ghosts and lingering spirits say about the state and our history.”

Andrew says society is suffering from a case of “cultural amnesia”.

“We have access to history and there are archives available but to what extent do we engage with that in our day-to-day living?” he says.

While the department is only so far investigating one case, it has engaged in at least six interviews with people wanting to share their spooky stories.

“We have had people come in and just want to share their stories with us,” Andrew says.

“People want to talk about it, but they feel others will judge them.”

The Department of Non-Corporeal Affairs will exist at 25 Pirie Street until October 6.

The Department of Non-Corporeal Affairs can be found at 25 Pirie Street until October 6.

Andrew says professional ghostbusters should be contacted to deal with “aggressive or hostile” ghost experiences.

“We’re not big on ghost busting or driving out spirits, we are interested in the idea of co-habitation with ghosts and living alongside history,” he says.

Aside from the dormant ouija board and the overalls, other slivers of humour have also made their way into the concept.

The department’s website features a ghost registry, where both the living and the dead can record their details.

“If you are a ghost we want to know where you are lingering, why you are here and your preferred form of communication,” it reads.

The Department of Non-Corporeal Affairs is on until October 6, however, its presence will linger on through the website.

Visit the Art Pod at 25 Pirie Street Adelaide on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday, 9am – 5pm.