Launching BECOMING A BIRD by Stephanie Radok

becoming a Bird by Stephanie Radok

Our brand-new event series, the Saturday Soirees, continued in March with the launching by Kay Lawrence of Stephanie Radok’s Becoming a Bird: Untold stories about art.

Our laneway was once again filled with eager punters and supporters of Stephanie’s collection of meditative stories. And, as a special treat, our bookshop was also graced with a small collection of Stephanie’s Spend More Time Listening to Birds Suite. One of the etchings from the collection features as the cover for this beautiful new collection.

Today, we are thrilled to be publishing launcher Kay Lawrence’s speech for all to enjoy.

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Cath Kenneally's Southern Oscillation Index

At the first of our new afternoon event series, Saturday Soirees, the Wakefield Press laneway was filled with merry makers for the launch of The Southern Oscillation Index by Cath Kenneally.

Launched by Linda Barwick, Emeritus Professor of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and Emceed by Wakefield Press’ fearless leader Michael Bollen, the launch was a wonderful way to start the series.

Find out about future editions of the Saturday Soirees series by subscribing to our newsletter here.

We are thrilled to be publishing Linda Barwick’s wonderful launch speech for all to enjoy.

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Launching THE FEELING OF BIGNESS by Helen Parsons

The Feeling of Bigness: Encountering Georgia O'Keeffe

When Adelaide’s quasi-lockdown hit in mid-November, the launching of Helen Parsons’ The Feeling of Bigness: Encountering Georgia O’Keeffe was momentarily put on hold. We were so thrilled to be able to have a rescheduled launch in early December.

Launched by Jan Owen, and Emceed by Louise Nicholas, the launch was held on the beautiful grounds of St John’s church on Halifax Street, on a balmy evening befitting Helen’s gorgeous poems.

We are delighted to be publishing Jan Owen’s launch speech from the evening here for all to enjoy.

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Book Launch: The First Wave

Gillian Dooley is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Flinders University, South Australia. Gillian is also a journal editor and the author of books and articles on literary subjects from Jane Austen to J.M. Coetzee. In this guest post she writes about the launch of The First Wave: Exploring early coastal contact history in Australia, and the book’s importance in our understanding of Australian history.

On 20 June, The First Wave: Exploring Early Coastal Contact History in Australia, edited by The First Wave coverDanielle Clode and myself, was launched in London. This was the result of a happy convergence of circumstances: I was in the UK on an extended visit, presenting at several conferences and giving the odd lecture and seminar, and Flinders University was looking for an excuse to hold an alumni event in London. The Alumni Office at Flinders organised a splendid event in the sumptuous Downer Room at Australia House, with help from the South Australian Agent-General’s office. The Vice-chancellor, Professor Colin Stirling, flew in for the occasion, and nearly 100 people, including Flinders Alumni and many UK-based friends and colleagues, were present to see The First Wave launched into the world – a few weeks before it was even published in Australia – by the incomparable Elleke Boehmer, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Professor of World Literature at Oxford, novelist, prominent and prodigious scholar of the South and of colonial and post-colonial encounters.

The First Wave draws together 26 essays, stories, and poems from a range of authors, some of Aboriginal heritage – poets, novelists, historians, literary scholars, art historians, anthropologists, musicologists, linguists, ecologists. We wanted to include multiple perspectives on multiple encounters, in a variety of genres – concentrating on meetings with explorers – temporary visitors, rather than the settlers or invaders who came later, though it’s not so easy to draw these kinds of boundaries.

Elleke spoke at the launch with even more than her customary grace and acuity. She read some passages, including an extract from Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance and a poem by Ali Cobby Eckermann. Referring to the genesis of the book in my exploration of the encounters described in Matthew Flinders’ accounts of his voyage, she noted

the complex fractal pattern of perspectives, observations and silent sight-lines both Indigenous and European that the co-editors Dooley and Clode had delicately constructed around Flinders’ 1801-3 journey of Australian circumnavigation. Many of these observations crystallised out from the crucial meeting on the beach, that classic zone of colonial encounter, yet at a fragile time before that encounter became violent and destructive. The First Wave also beautifully demonstrates how those observations were then recorded not only in the explorers’ journals and logbooks but also in Indigenous song and dance, so making a very different yet equally telling historical record. Dooley and Clode had achieved this fine balance by drawing together an extensive generic range of writings including some resonant contemporary poetry and were to be especially congratulated about this.

Elleke’s speech made me see the work we had done in a new light, not as merely a heterogenous collection of a variety of perspectives – which it undoubtedly is, and which was our intention – but as something which appeared, in a way, complete – which had an integrity of its own, perhaps beyond the sum of its parts. I found her words extraordinarily moving and extremely gratifying.

Alastair Niven, LVO, OBE, formerly Director of Literature at the both the British Arts Council and the British Council, now of Harris Manchester College, Oxford, kindly agreed to make some closing remarks:

‘It is a genuine privilege to take part in the launch of The First Wave. That’s the sort of politely conventional thing one says on this sort of occasion, but tonight it is really true. This is a monumental book, and I don’t just mean in terms of weight. It is an essential work of true scholarship. This book matters, re-visiting old episodes and in the process re-visioning them.’

There is a crucial if brief sentence in Gillian Dooley’s and Danielle Clode’s excellent introduction. ‘What were the Europeans NOT seeing?’ These essays examine the not seen, which includes how they were themselves viewed by the indigenous peoples they found on arrival in Australia. I don’t usually spatter my talks with Biblical references, but it’s hard not to be reminded of words we have all grown up with and know as evidence of what we define as our civilisation: ‘Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.’ This book helps us clarify our opaque vision.

‘Throughout The First Wave words are given new shades of meaning as a consequence of their post-colonial interrogation.  Take as an example Valerie Munt’s essay ‘Sense or Sensibility? Encountering a “Savage” Land in a Romantic Era’, where every word of her title is ironic or nuanced: ‘sense’, ‘sensibility’, ‘encountering’, ‘”savage”‘ (placed in inverted commas), ‘land’, ‘Romantic’, ‘era’, even ‘or’.   This is a book full of such upendings. Encounters and exchanges, footprints and landing parties are all seen afresh. Books like Robinson Crusoe, Coral Island and Lord of the Flies will never seem the same again.’

Once again, I was touched, flattered and surprised by Alastair’s kind words. I have learned a huge amount during this project. When I first conceived of this book project, I knew I’d need a co-editor and the multi-talented Danielle Clode was my first choice, given her expertise on the French voyages to Australia and her wide and varied experience in writing and publishing. Luckily she agreed despite her overflowing schedule and she has been a wonderful partner in this enterprise, in addition to contributing her own beautifully crafted and carefully researched story about whaling on Australia’s east coast. I am grateful to every single one of the contributors for their unique accounts of a myriad of meetings, sightings and exchanges. Only one of them, Patrick Kaye, was able to be present at the London launch, but we look forward to celebrating its publication with many of the others in Adelaide soon – watch this space.

The First Wave, at over 450 pages, has turned out to be a big book, but I hope you will agree with me that its size is justified by the richness of the insights it provides.

Many thanks to Flinders University, Australia House, Elleke Boehmer, and Peter Livingstone, photographer, for their involvement in this wonderful evening.

To purchase a copy of the book, give us a call on (08) 8352 4455, visit us at our Mile End Bookshop, or find it in our online web store.

Special Event: Wild Asparagus, Wild Strawberries

Wild Asparagus, Wild Strawberries

Cover of the book

France bewitched Barbara Santich as a student in the early 1970s. She vowed to return, and soon enough she did – with husband and infant twins in tow.

Wild Asparagus, Wild Strawberries tells the story of the magical two years that followed. Buoyed by naive enthusiasm, Barbara and her husband launched themselves into French village life, a world of winemaking, rabbit raising, cherry picking and exuberant 14 Juillet celebrations.

Here we see the awakening of Barbara Santich’s lifelong love affair with food history, and also a lost France, ‘when the 19th century almost touched hands with the 21st’. Shepherds still led their flocks to pasture each day and, even near the bustling towns, wild strawberries hid at the forest’s edge.



I drank Normandy farmhouse cider, ate strawberries dipped in red wine then sugar, and tasted truffles and soft goat cheeses for the first time. I returned to Australia inspired to become a food writer.

Join us for the launch of Wild Asparagus, Wild Strawberries: Two years in France at the Wakefield Press bookshop on Saturday May 5. The afternoon will begin at 2 pm and end at 5pm, with the book being launched by Amanda McInerny early in the afternoon.

Drinks and light nibbles will be provided, and you can enjoy 20% off all Wakefield Press titles (excluding Wild Asparagus, Wild Strawberries).

Please RSVP by Monday April 30 to

If you are unable to attend the launch, but wish to purchase a copy of the book, you can visit us at our Mile End bookshop or find the book online.

Thanks to Coriole Vineyards and Woodside Cheese Wrights for their kind donations and support of Wakefield Press.

A Royal Murder Extract

A Royal Murder cover

Cover of the book

A macabre murder during the Women’s Australian Open golf tournament at one of Australia’s most prestigious golf courses sees food and wine journalist and amateur golfer Rebecca Keith on the murder trail once more. Fortunately, Rebecca’s sleuthing takes her on a journey of eating and drinking through many of Adelaide’s bars and restaurants. Little does Rebecca know that her visits to nearby Barossa Valley and Kangaroo Island will reveal clues that will become crucial in the hunt for a killer.

A Royal Murder, a light-hearted thriller full of intrigue and betrayal, features a full cast of eccentric characters set against the rich backdrop of South Australia and its lush food and wine culture.

Read an extract of the book below, as our heroine, Rebecca Keith, is first on the scene of a grisly discovery at the Royal Adelaide golf course.

The Adelaide-to-Grange Line

Rebecca had drunk more than she should have. When the phone alarm went off at five o’clock, she had to stop herself from flinging it across the room. She listened to the news and weather on the radio.

She couldn’t face breakfast and instead spent the extra time in the shower.

It was just before seven o’clock as she walked alongside the railway tracks at Royal Adelaide, heading to her position on the second tee. The course was again bathed in a golden glow. Her footsteps left imprints on the fairway still damp from the overnight watering.

Rebecca heard the train’s whistle, signalling it was about to pull off from the Seaton Park station. She could hear the ding of the boom gates. Within a couple of minutes, she saw the train in the distance as it emerged from the bushes by the fence line and started its journey alongside the fairway. Rebecca was surprised when she heard the train’s whistle again. It startled her. Something was wrong. The train only whistled as it approached walk-crossings on the golf course, and it wouldn’t be approaching one for a few hundred metres. It shouldn’t be sounding its whistle now, nor should it be putting on its brakes. She could tell by the screeching that the train was stopping hard. Rebecca looked along the tracks and spotted a large red duffle-like bag sitting squarely in the train’s path. There wasn’t enough time to stop. She watched as the red bag was flung aside, rolled down the embankment, and came to rest just on the edge of the fairway.

Rebecca stood up and started to jog toward the train. Before she reached it, the driver jumped out of the cab and ran toward the red bag. He looked distressed. Within moments, Rebecca was standing next to him and they were both looking at a bloodied, severed arm lying a couple of metres from the torn bag. The duffle bag appeared to be made from expensive silk, embossed with what Rebecca thought was Chinese calligraphy. She was in no doubt the rest of the body was in the bag. The protruding bloodied leg was a giveaway.

‘Oh my God,’ moaned the train driver as he lowered himself to a crouch on the ground, resting his head in his hands. Rebecca was pretty sure whoever was in the bag was dead, but she needed to know for certain. She walked up to it, undid the drawstring at the top, and gently lowered the silk to uncover the victim’s lacerated face. Rebecca stared. The glazed lifeless eyes appeared to be gazing up to the sky. Rebecca not only knew the victim was dead, she also knew who it was.

The first in the series, The Popeye Murder

Join us at the Beetson Lounge at Grange golf club at 1.00 pm on Tuesday 13 February for the launch of A Royal Murder, in conjunction with the re-release of the first Rebecca Keith mystery, The Popeye Murder. If you cannot attend the launch, but would like to purchase a copy of the books, they can be found on our website, coming soon!

The launch of SURROGATE by Tracy Crisp


Last week we launched Tracy Crisp’s new book Surrogate to a very full house at Imprints Booksellers. After an excellent speech by ABC Adelaide’s Deb Tribe, here is what Tracy had to say.



Thank you, Deb. For being so open to the invitation and so generous with your time to prepare for tonight and to be here this evening. And thank you for giving Surrogate such a great send-off into the world. It’s extremely nerve wracking, and I really appreciate what you’ve done to wish it bon voyage.

Thank you to Imprints, and especially Jason who has been very patient with all my Hi Jason, just double-checking emails. I remember the first time I walked into Imprints … it was down the road, and I’d just moved to Adelaide to go to uni. I was entirely overwhelmed that year, feeling completely out of place, but when I walked inside, I knew that I wanted to be part of this world. I bought the Complete Shakespeare Sonnets – because that’s how clever I was – and every year since I’ve made a new year’s resolution to learn them all by heart. 2018 will be my year.

Thank you to everyone at Wakefield Press and especially to Michael who has twice now taken a punt on my work. Wakefield is truly South Australian, making sure that local stories have a place to be told.

In coming back to Adelaide, I have experienced for the first time since I moved out of my home in Port Pirie the true joy of knowing what it means to feel grounded, to belong, to be at home. Being published by Wakefield has given my return home an extra potency.

Julia was a very caring editor. Liz designed the perfect cover. Ayesha and Maddy have answered endless emails – Hi, just double-checking – and Jonny is making sure my books can fly out of the nest and find a new home.

I don’t want to talk too much about the tortuous process of writing this, but at a time when I was completely overwhelmed with doubt Virginia Lloyd and Jacqui Lofthouse each did a brilliant job in very different ways of helping me see the way through to the end. When I did get to the end, Penelope Goodes in Melbourne and Melissa King who lives in Adelaide and I’m really pleased was able to come tonight, picked it up and did a wonderful job of saving me from embarrassing errors.

Thank you to Adrian. Those of you who know him, know that he is a good man in all of the many senses that we understand that. He not only loves me, and he not only respects my work as a writer, but he values it. He values it not only because it is good for me, but also its place in our relationship. This is not to be taken for granted in a partner. Although I’m not sure he values the production of tea towels taking over the house and the subsequent spread of inky cat prints across all our floors. As I was finishing off the printing for last week’s market, I said to him, ‘Do you think I’m ridiculous?’ And he didn’t say, ‘Yes.’ Though thinking about it now, I also realise he didn’t say, ‘No.’

Thank you to Leo and Felix. My beautiful grandfather used to like saying, ‘Leo and Felix. You had two cats.’ But they’re heaps better than cats. Their inky paw marks are bigger, but so is their love and it is more consistent too.

Before I thank you for coming, I want to give a shout out to Adrian’s parents who can’t be here. Adrian’s mum has done such a wonderful job of negotiating the complexities of the mother-in-law, daughter-in-law relationship and I am very grateful to have her as one of my greatest friends. Thank you to the many members of my family who came tonight, aunties, uncles, cousins, brother, my sisters-in-law. And thank you to mum and dad’s friends.

It is of course the deepest of sadness that Mum and Dad aren’t here. Mum never knew that I was going to publish anything. Which is a pity because she was the first and the best storyteller I will ever know and she really had a way with words.

From the nuns at Henley Beach who, she insisted, were constantly trying to steal her dog, to the day we drove into Port Pirie and she pointed at the stack and said to us, ‘Do you see that? Do you know what that is? That’s the largest lead smelter in the world, and do you know what that means, that means if there’s ever a war, we’ll be the first to be bombed’; to the time that in her capacity as the Mayor’s wife she stood next to Port Pirie’s archbishop as the debs were presented and said to him, ‘You know you’re the only man in the town can get away with wearing hot pink, don’t you?’

I didn’t ever let Dad read the final draft of my first novel. I was nervous about what he would think, afraid that I wouldn’t live up to his expectations. Not because he was especially demanding, but because he had such faith, such confidence in what I would do, and I hated the thought that I had let him down. By the time I felt like I could show it to him, he was far too tired and although I had signed the contract before he died, he never did get to see the finished product. This mistake has haunted me for a long time. But from it I hope that I have learnt to be more open and more trusting, not only in the people around me but in myself.

And finally, I want to say thank you to you.

The biggest challenge that I face when I’m writing is staring down my demons. There’s the obvious, angsty ones. I’m not good enough, what have I got to say that hasn’t already been said, I’m fifty years old I’ve got six thousand dollars in super I should probably get a real job, oh, I’ve got a great idea, I’ll screen print tea towels … and then I will give them away, because I’m too embarrassed to ask for money … but there are also far deeper and much darker demons than those.

It’s a cliché of writing classes to be told, ‘write what you know.’ Okay. So, clichés ahoy, my first novel is set in a town nestled in the shadow of a lead smelte – although spoiler alert, war is never declared – but writing, creating anything, is a way of making sense of the world, of making sense of what it means to be human. So, writing what you know means that wherever you start, you always end up processing the most difficult of emotions. The losses, the pain, the anger, the mistakes. I remember when Leo was quite young and he was asking about the events of my work so far and when we got to the end, he said, ‘Have you ever thought about, instead of all the death, you have a brush with death?

But of course, we only know what it is to feel loss and pain because we know celebration and joy. Because we know friendship and we know love. So, when I say thank you for coming, thank you for helping me to celebrate, I mean it most sincerely.

Thank you for coming to the launch of my new novel, Surrogate. Thank you for reading it, and thank you in advance for sending me nice notes to tell me how much you loved it. Thank you for telling me a little white fib if you never get around to reading it, and thank you for flat out lying if you do read it but you don’t really like it.

Liz Williams: Body Language

by Marrgot Osborne with Grant Hancock

Cover of the book

In late September Wakefield Press had the honour of launching Liz Williams: Body Language, a beautifully photographed book dedicated to the works of the late South Australian ceramicist.

Below is an excerpt from author Margot Osborne’s speech at the launch.

I was driven to do this book on Liz Williams to honour her lifetime of artistic achievement and to ensure that there is a record of her unique contribution to Australian ceramics. It struck me when I heard about her illness that despite her receiving numerous grants and residencies, I was among the many in the Adelaide art scene who had more or less taken her presence for granted, as someone who would always be there to bump into on the Parade and engage in long enjoyable conversations. Meanwhile over the years she worked away quietly maintaining a low profile presence in her Norwood studio, making her wonderful coil-built sculptures and travelling overseas to investigate how the art of other cultures might influence her own work. At her death she had never received the in-depth attention of a long-form essay, or a career survey exhibition and catalogue. Nor was she represented in the Art Gallery of South Australia by any work more recent than a sculpture from her Receudos exhibition in 1993.

This book is a first step in addressing that situation.

In addition to my own essay on the evolution by Liz Williams of a figurative sculpture language in clay, the book includes three earlier re-published essays by Catherine Speck, Damon Moon and Wendy Walker.

Another dimension to the book are the tributes from Liz’s artist colleagues and friends – Jeff Mincham, Anna Platten, Jane Sawyer, Karen Genoff, Milton Moon, Donald Richardson and Margo Hill-Smith. These writers were all

Brain Parkes, Jam Factory CEO, and Margot Osborne, author

personally selected by Liz shortly before her death.

At the creative heart of the book are the glorious images of Liz Williams ceramics by Grant Hancock, photographer to the artists of Adelaide. Grant worked with Liz photographing her work from 2006 to 2016. There are some 70 full page images of Liz’s ceramic taken by Grant, as well as his photographs of her beautiful home and studio taken earlier this year.

And now finally, I come to Anna Platten. Anna was there at the start of this project and was entrusted by Liz to have oversight and ensure the book turned out as she would have wanted. In the weeks after Liz’s death Anna decided she would make the drawing that we have on display tonight. Normally she works from life but as that was not possible, she recreated Liz in her studio from a blend of photographs. It is a moving image of Liz, full of light and life, even though she was already gravely ill. Titled ‘Inside the Head of the Quiet Woman’, it conveys the contrast between the appearance of the gentle ageing woman and the art that grew out of her intensely imaginative inner life.

Thank you everyone. It’s been a wonderful project. Now all we need is for you to buy the book.

To purchase the book and to find out more, visit our website here

A great big book about a great small city

Last Thursday marked the celebration and re-launch of City Streets, a chronicled answer to the past 75 years of Adelaide’s architecture. As author Lance Campbell says, it’s a great big book about a great small city.

We were hosted at the beautiful Living Choice Fullarton and joined by many of our Wakefield Press authors and friends, including the event’s emcee, Keith Conlon. And to top it all off, we had some fantastic Coriole sparkling!

The new edition includes a foreword and by the SA Premier, Jay Weatherill – here we present some highlights of the Premier’s kind words and insights from his launch address.


This is not merely a beautiful book. In its detail and its scale, it’s also an invaluable record of the growth and evolution of our city’s “square mile”.

City Streets is the work of two gifted people. The photographs, by the late Mick Bradley, are superb – precise and expansive, capturing Adelaide’s special quality of light. Though they’re ostensibly of buildings, the images are rich with people and movement and energy – just like those taken by Baring back in the 1930s. As for the writing, who better to sneak behind the facades and tell the stories of our town than Lance Campbell. Lance is an outstanding reporter and writer. Whether the topic is sport or the arts or, from time to time, politics, his prose is elegant and insightful – revealing and describing things many of us would otherwise not have noticed

As I suggest in the foreword to the new edition, City Streets is likely to generate mixed feelings in some readers. More than most comparable cities, Adelaide has managed to retain a large number of attractive buildings from the 19th and early 20th centuries. But – along the way – we’ve probably allowed some special ones to slip through our fingers.

One of those was the gracious Grand Central Hotel – which later housed Foy’s department store – and used to sit on what we now call “Hungry Jack’s corner”. For some reason, it was decided to demolish that lovely pile in 1976. To paraphrase Joni Mitchell, we pulled down “paradise” and put up a parking lot!

As I’ve said publicly before, I think we should see cities as – first and foremost – communities, rather than just collections of buildings and houses and roads. In line with the fact, one of the prevailing and very welcome things about our current city centre that can’t be fully captured in words or pictures is its vibrancy.

The tale of this city will go on and on. And the buildings we love today and are part of our collective consciousness will – in time – go the way of the old ones featured in City Streets. I hope and suspect that, one day, others will follow in the footsteps of Mick Bradley and Lance Campbell. And the Adelaideans of, say, the 2080s or 2090s will reminisce about – who knows? – the Adelaide Convention Centre or the Federal Courts building in Victoria Square. For now, however, we have this new edition of City Streets – and we’re very happy and appreciative, indeed.

On behalf of the State Government, I commend Wakefield Press for its initiative, for continuing to tell great stories and – through this book – for helping to chart the history of our built environment.


Photographs by Brad Griffin.


Learn more about City Streets .

Catherine Truman’s SALA Opening Address

One of the biggest pleasures of the SALA festival is hearing the keynote address from the featured artist.

Last year it was Giles Bettison on the importance of art. This year, Catherine Truman spoke to a packed house about the joys of ‘tadpoling’, and how important a sense of adventure and a strong work ethic are as an artist – or, indeed, a scientist.

Catherine’s very kindly shared her speech with us here. We agree with her – viva SALA! And, may we add, viva Catherine Truman!


Tadpoling at the Bench

Firstly, I to would like to acknowledge that we meet on Kaurna land and pay respect to their spiritual relationship with this country past, present and future.

Thanks everyone for being here tonight, especially my dear friends, family and colleagues who’ve travelled from far away places to share in the celebrations.

It is such an honour to address you tonight as the featured SALA artist for 2016 but this wonderful achievement has only been possible through the support, love and inspiration from a lot of other people and so firstly a few personal thank yous.

And then I’d like to tell you a little story – a story about tadpoling. In fact I’ve titled my address to you tonight Tadpoling at the Bench.


Catherine Truman addresses the crowds at SALA opening night

Catherine Truman addresses the crowds at SALA opening night


Thanks to the SALA committee and to Penny and Kate for their incredible commitment to this ever-growing phenomenon that is SALA and a nod to Paul Greenaway, the instigator, for his vision. To Arts South Australia and Wakefield Press for their support of the SALA publication especially Michael Bollen, Margot Lloyd and Clinton Ellicott. To Melinda Rackham for her intelligent, insightful, writing and to both Melinda and André Lawrence, our mentee on the project, for their commitment to getting it thoroughly right. And to Rachel Harris, our designer, for the magic she wove to bring together Melinda’s fine words and the many, many luscious images by Grant Hancock into such a magnificent book. We are all really proud of it. I hope you all enjoy it.

I never dreamed that having a book written about you would be quite so intense, quite so wonderful. We had to proof it a few weeks ago, and I must admit I felt very emotional holding the pages in my hands for the first time. I became so absorbed, I forgot I was meant to be proofing and by the end I was so excited I really wanted to rush back to the studio and make some more work. So that’s a good sign eh?

A special thanks to my Gray Street family, Jess Dare and the gang for keeping me afloat through thick and thin and to my lifelong partner Sue Lorraine for her patience, sage advice and rock solid love.

And to the people at the coalface of Arts South Australia and the Australia Council, for your professional support and for believing in my practice.

The Art Gallery of South Australia has held such an important place in my growth as an artist. I do feel that it is embedded in my DNA. It is deeply satisfying to present such a large body of work in this gallery. It’s a great honour. Thanks Nick Mitzevich and Lisa Slade for their chutzpah and commitment to showing live and kicking practising South Australian Artists and Rebecca Evans the curator of European and Australian decorative arts. My exhibition was her first major project in her new position at the Art Gallery of South Australia and she hit the ground running with grace and elegance and it has been a pleasure to work with her. Thanks to all of the install and registry staff too, especially Jess and the crew who had to document well over 300 objects for the show!

So you can see I haven’t sustained my long career without the support of many others and I thank them from my heart.

Now to my tadpoling story and I promise it’s short and sweet.

I want to tell you about an image that’s in the book being launched tonight.

When I was seven my dad took a picture of me tadpoling in National Park. In this picture – a 35 mm Kodak slide, the kind with the cardboard mount – I seem completely unaware of either the camera or my dad for that matter. There I am standing in the creek, brown Bermuda shorts, scrawny little legs covered in mud with a blue plastic strainer in my hand, bent over, absolutely focussed on the water, poised, ready to pounce on some poor unsuspecting taddy. Mum’s shade-house was forever croaking as I was growing up. Every time I look at that photo I relive those moments of complete bliss, of absorption, and curiosity, the thrill of discovery and the deep pleasure of pursuit. And I’m really pleased that forty-three years later this picture appears in the beginning pages of the book because it still resonates on many levels.

When I create work I touch base with tadpoling. Hunting and gathering is integral with my daily practice of making art. It’s full of challenging and difficult and delicious experiences of absolute absorption, deep focus and pursuit. Connecting with the wider world – observing, listening, learning, staying open, interacting, engaging and exchanging – is critical to being an artist. It provides context and meaning. I actively seek out contact with others, mostly scientists because they like to go tadpoling too, and I like to think the world is a better place because of the creative exchanges we have. I’ve been artist in residence in the School of Medicine and the biomedical laboratories of Flinders University for several years now and learnt firsthand that there are rich parallels between art and science. Full-time practise in either field is mostly a day-to-day slog and some days, there is nothing tangible to show for it. But we both agree, it’s the slog that’s compelling and fruitful and wonderful. Now I can better understand and embrace the chaos and rhythms embedded in my day-to-day creative processes. This time next year the JamFactory will be presenting a solo exhibition of my art/science project works.

The wonderful South Australian painter Deidre But-Husaim put up a post on Facebook recently, a quote by Chuck Close. He said:

The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.

I couldn’t have said it any better. And I learnt that through tadpoling at the bench and working with scientists.

This is wise advice, but it seems that the nitty gritty part of creative practise is not always understood by the consumers of art or the powers that be – those powers that have just been narrowly re-elected for example. Enough said. It is usually romanticised and separated from real life. So it is vital we put voice to the day-to-day creative processes of full-time practice and take advantage of SALA to give us that important voice

In rounding this up, when I think about my dad sneaking up on me to take that photo of me blissfully tadpoling in that muddy creek in National park, I feel incredibly moved that he recognised the substance of the moment and that he cared enough to record it for posterity.

I hope you all get to do a little tadpoling yourselves this SALA.

Please visit my show upstairs and Melinda and I are now going to be happily signing books in the foyer, please come up and say hello!

Thank you and viva SALA!


Book cover

Catherine Truman: Touching distance