By Julietta Jameson
You could be satisfied just feasting your eyes on this place, ringed by iridescent aqua ocean and crystalline white beaches, its interior filled with dramatic cliffs and rock formations, undulating pasture and thick green wilderness.
But there’s so much more; Kangaroo Island is a feast for all the senses.
Hear the soothing purity of nothing but birdsong on the wind. Smell the exhilarating fresh air coming off the wild Southern Ocean. Relish the sensation of clean salty sea on the skin. And taste incredible food produced by artisans and small growers dedicated to quality.
And if you believe in the sixth sense of the spirit, well, that gets nourished here too. The island’s people are full of character and a love for their home as well as a warm willingness to welcome visitors.
For award-winning local artist Janine Mackintosh the wild natural beauty of Kangaroo Island provides much of her inspiration. For her it’s an ancient landscape filled with energy.
“I feel as I’m collaborating with nature. Nature provides the colour, the texture and the form and even the narrative of things that have happened to the materials. Certainly it provides the inspiration and it’s up to me to show off the characteristics of whatever material I’m using,” she told the South Australian Museum.
Mackintosh’s intricate designs endeavor to show off the best characteristics of an element of nature. Her work may come from one tree or one beach but the collective grouping in one simple form is quite calming. She’s driven by the desire to try and distil nature to its simplest essence.
“It gives off an energy to me; it’s almost like a sound.
“It’s absolutely a conservation message but I just want to draw people in and make them want to preserve it (nature) because it is so amazing.”
With such sensory stimulation, it’s no wonder a certain type is drawn to Kangaroo Island. “The island has become a haven for artists,” says resident, Bob Teasdale.
“We have more than our fair share and artists with really top quality reputations as well as a lot of amateur artists who are pretty good too.”
To celebrate that, each year the island puts on Kangaroo Island Art Feast. But it’s not just about the art. On Kangaroo Island, food and drink is never out of the equation. As Teasdale, the Art Feast chairman points out, “It’s a celebration of art and food – and wine and cider and spirits – and all of the great things that come out of Kangaroo Island.”
Kangaroo Island, Australia’s third-largest, after Tasmania and Melville Island, 112km southwest of Adelaide and part of South Australia, seems specially blessed, with a reputation for top quality, often organically grown produce, the result of a frost-free climate, disease-free conditions, and a variety of terroirs that are perfect for cultivating various premium crops.
The eggs, poultry, vegetables, olive oil, apple cider, horseradish, wine, spirits and famously succulent meats and seafood that come from it are very near works of art themselves – those who produce them do so with the same kind of creativity, ingenuity and passion it takes to do more ethereal pursuits well.
Art Feast is a great time to come and experience the co-existence of food and art, especially as it affords unique opportunities to gain intimate insight into life on the island. Teasdale’s home, for instance, has been one of the many with its doors thrown open to the public during Art Feast.
“Our home is a bit of a work of art so we had an art exhibition in our home and grounds. This year we have about 25 spaces open: art galleries, wineries, restaurants, a couple of hotels, some private houses, just a whole range of different venues providing art accompanied by fine food, either nibbles, or a lunch or a dinner.”
And it’s happening right across the island. Here’s a taste of the Feast.
Artists Neil Sheppard and Jenny Clapson open their studios to the public, allowing visitors to watch them at work and ask questions. At Island Pure Sheep Dairy, a sheep-themed photographic exhibition is accompanied by samples of the dairy’s handmade cheeses. Still central, Clifford’s Honey Farm’s 2015 exhibition is wide-ranging, with picnic packs of local produce on sale to enjoy in the grounds.
Saturday night at Emu Bay sees a cocktail soiree, Emu Bay Lanterns at Dusk, lit by individually fashioned handmade lanterns accompanied by Kangaroo Island Spirits (KIS) cocktails, canapes, and music.
Two Kangaroo Island artists are the co-exhibitors at Mrs. Valentine’s Cottage. Janine Mackintosh and Scott Hartshorne’s work for the occasion focuses on botanic details in the island’s natural landscape, hung on the backdrop of a 100-year-old old limestone cottage.
At Artworks Gallery, there’s a food and dining-inspired exhibition by members of the Artists Collective KI Inc., accompanied by the artists themselves at work in their favourite medium and open to conversation with visitors over local wines and nibbles.
At Sunset Winery Marion Matthews exhibits quilts made from fabric that has been foraged, recycled or sourced during travels. She’s onsite for the duration with an artist talk at 3pm each day over the weekend and workshops as well.
At American River, find a Chainsaw Wood Carving competition, exhibits and plenty of catering and an exhibition of modern and antique art, including refurbished objects by a range of local artists. The Penneshaw Hotel is decorated in works by locals and the Penneshaw Markets have special emphasis on arts, crafts, jewellery and handmade items.
For the time-poor Kingscote is an easy dip into Art Feast, as the various exhibitions and events are within short walking distance of each other.
KI Gallery is a collective of the island’s most prominent artists but the year-round showcase has something special on show for the October long weekend, including a Community Wall of Art, a compilation work by local artists and community members.
Fine Art Kangaroo Island represents a blend of the island’s established and emerging artists. This year’s Feast exhibition launches a Sensory Arts Courtyard, dressed by Kenita Williamson’s weavings. In the Kingscote Town Hall, find a collaborative exhibition entitled “Hope,” with works in a range of media as well as lots of workshops. On the Sunday, there’s a craft market.
Indigo Lane hosts an exhibition of pastels by Pam Kent and textiles by Helen Stevens inspired by Dorothy Mackellar’s My Country. It promises to offer “insight into the ever-changing vistas of Kangaroo Island” and “ the seasons’ changing colour palettes”.
At Raptor Domain, Dave Irwin’s corrugated-iron feathered gates are iconic. Pass through them to see sculptural work dedicated to education and conservation. Owls, created by locals from a range of recycled materials, are displayed in the trees, and see intricate works by local glass artist Bea Chuan.
Pam White’s baskets, woven from waste and wilderness, are on display at Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Exploring a range of techniques and interpretations of an ancient art form, this is an exciting exhibition in a unique destination, accompanied by local snacks.
Western River Homestead exhibits new works by renowned artists Audrey Harnett and Caroline Taylor including prints, sculptural pieces, hand-coloured archival photographs and paintings, while Bay of Shoals Winery hosts the youth photography competition.
KICE (Kangaroos Island Community Education) Kingscote’s annual Asian Market is a highlight, and the Ozone Hotel hosts a Cambodia-themed dinner to launch the book, The Tale of Andong Village, with illustrations by local student Mikayla Reid.
Also on again, the KICE Music Showcase, part of the sub-festival, Youth Art Feast, celebrating the artistic output of the island’s young people.
Also a part of Youth Art Feast, the Wild KI Exhibition at Kingscote Airport is a warm and exciting welcome to visitors.