Arts / Curtain up on Nancy’s new gallery

Principal Nancy Sever in her new Gorman Arts Centre gallery… “I might be doing as much for artists as the ACT government.”

“MICHAEL Taylor would like to do the honours with new work,” says gallery owner Nancy Sever as she prepares to move into the old Currong Theatre in Gorman Arts Centre.

She’s thrilled to have him “do the honours”. Taylor is the famous Monaro-region artist admired for his abstracted landscapes and the subject of a huge retrospective curated by Deborah Clark at Canberra Museum and Gallery last year.

He also exhibited new works last year at the Nancy Sever Gallery in Kingston, from which she is now moving to be closer to the thriving arts hub that Gorman has long been.

“There’s an exciting synergy with Canberra Contemporary Art Space and the artists renting studios,” she says.

“And also there are artists, dancers, musicians and creative people – I plan to meet everyone soon, at least in B Block… I’m surrounded by artists.”

Proving her point, contemporary artists Alexander Boynes and Alex Asch swing by while “CityNews” is catching up with Sever.

She’s been busy negotiating with electricians and handymen and is trying out some of the large Taylor abstracts for the new exhibition in a space so transformed as to be almost unrecognisable.

Gone are sombre tones of a performing arts space and instead there is a pristine whiteness of a contemporary gallery, something Sever is not about to be apologetic for, even though trendier arts-buffs have told her that white is “out”.

“But I think people want to be able to see the work at its best,” she counters.

Sever is the former director of the ANU Drill Hall Gallery and was once behind an exhibition that toured to Singapore, showcasing the finest work of ANU artists.

Nowadays she’s one of a vanishing breed of commercial gallery owners in Canberra since the demise of Chapman Gallery’s Judith Behan and Solander’s Joy Warren, but sees no problem in relocating to Gorman, better-known for housing funded tenants.

She’s paying commercial rates and only taking a low commission, so she’s playing her part, reflecting: “I might be doing as much for artists as the ACT government.”

It’s been a whirlwind month for her after suddenly getting approval from the ACT government, which closely guards all heritage-listed properties. After meetings with Gorman director Joseph Falsone and chair Suzie Campbell, she’s steamed ahead through the regulations and is now preparing signage.

“Michael works very hard and I could sell his work every day, people find it so attractive,” she says of Taylor.

“He has a big following here but also interstate and Melbourne people ring me about his work.”

Sever, who is also his commercial representative, is hoping for interstate interest in the gallery.

After a pre-Christmas opening and a January closure, she will reopen in February with a major exhibition by the celebrated Indonesian-born artist Dadang Christanto, who now lives in Lismore.

Then, with monthly exhibitions she will feature and co-curate works by respected veteran artists Tim Johnson and Janenne Eaton as well as one of Canberra’s most exciting young artists, Kate Stevens – “people who are dedicated to the arts,” she says.

“Michael Taylor: New Paintings”, Nancy Sever Gallery, Gorman Arts Centre, Braddon, opening November 29.

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