Sawtooth ARI’s new director wants a more inclusive gallery

liam
Liam James.

Sawtooth ARI’s new director wants to break down the barriers between the art community and the general public.

Liam James, a Launceston local, has returned to the city after five years in Hobart.

He earned a Bachelor of Contemporary Art at the University of Tasmania in 2010, with Honours from the Australian National University.

He has since worked as a visual artist exhibiting in Tasmania, nationally and internationally, a gallery invigilator at Mona, and as the co-chair of Constance ARI.

He was also the co-director of Hobiannale, a ten-day festival incorporating emerging artists from 17 artist-run initiatives across Australia and New Zealand.

James will now take the reins at Launceston’s principle artist-run initiative Sawtooth, which is a gallery space and locus for early-career and experimental artists.

Under his direction, it is likely to see an uptick of engagement with diverse artists including First Nations people, people with a disability, and migrants.

“I’d like to see how different community groups can find this space more accessible, and do away with the intimidation of the gallery – that kind of structure and the kind of presumed elitism that comes with a gallery space,” he said.

“I think there’s a complete separation of the arts community away from the rest of the community, and that completely needs to be broken down.

“If artists are only making art to show to other artists then there’s not that much point in it.

“I do truly think that if we had more people from a wide range of backgrounds here, the conversations that we’re having would be much more interesting.”

Sawtooth shows five to six different exhibits per month in its multiple gallery rooms, across whatever mediums and themes the artists’ creativity can come up with.

James said he believed that was one of the highest outputs of a gallery of any level in Australia.

However, he said his focus as director would be on quality of work, and quality of discourse around work, rather than growth for growth’s sake.

He wants to steward an artist-run initiative that is seen as a welcoming space for everyone in Launceston.

“I grew up in Mowbray, and I didn’t go to exhibitions growing up,” he said. “I didn’t know about art galleries.

“People think that they need to be really smart to ‘get’ art, that you need to be breaking something down and there’s a secret club language, but you don’t really need to know that.

“If we can find a way for people to just come and experience, come and look, come and engage, come and feel – without thinking that art is intellectual – then I think we would be on the right track.”

The former director of Sawtooth was Paul Eggins, who has moved on to Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery.

Sawtooth can be found at Level 1, 160 Cimitiere St, 12-5 Wednesday – Friday and 10-2 Saturday.

 

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