Aptos Cruz: A Convergence of Minds
Posted: 05 Nov 2010 | By: Andrew Nicholls
Defining itself as an 'Art and Design House' rather than a gallery, Aptos Cruz has been located in South Australia's idyllic Stirling Valley since 1986. The gallery name (taken from Amerindian and Spanish) refers to the notion of a convergence or crossover, reflecting its holistic approach to the relationship between art and the lived environment.
"We believe that art is an essential element to the spaces that people occupy," state Gallery Directors Steve and Pat Ronayne, "and therefore should work hand in hand with great design." The gallery aims to cultivate a space in which fine art, craft and design can sit alongside each other harmoniously.
Prior to settling in Adelaide, the Californian-born Ronayne had lived in Florence and Sydney, and travelled extensively across the world and throughout Australia. This love of travel and cross-cultural experience is reflected in the director's curatorial approach. They now strive to source works for the gallery that reflect "the principles of beauty, quality and simplicity" regardless of cultural or thematic context. The space, therefore, uniquely showcases examples of tribal art, ethnic textiles and jewellery, homewares and furniture alongside contemporary artworks, crafted objects and Indigenous art by Australian makers.
Aptos Cruz grew organically from the Ronaynes' prior profession in the design sector. Initially establishing a design showroom in Stirling in the mid-1980s, the gallery was founded when they took over a nearby nineteenth-century church, somewhat dilapidated following thirteen years of vacancy. Once renovated, the space provided an atmospheric setting for the artworks and antiquities they planned to show, and has subsequently proven a drawcard for their urban clientele - although only a twenty-minute drive from the city centre, they recognise the gallery now serves as "a destination" for Adelaide's art- and design-literate audience, and the range of work they showcase is intentionally diverse in order to lure clients out of the inner city for repeat visits. In 2007, the space underwent an award-winning contemporary extension by architect Con Bastiras, providing increased room as well as a more sympathetic context for the gallery's contemporary works, while taking full advantage of the stunning vista of the Stirling valley behind.
Aptos Cruz shows six discrete exhibitions annually, in a main, upstairs gallery space. In keeping with its curatorial philosophy, the group shows coordinated by the gallery tend to comprise several different mediums ranged against each other. Displayed next to and between the exhibitions, consignment artworks sit alongside the gallery's designed objects and furniture, allowing clients to appreciate firsthand how art and design can complement each other in a space. Ethnic works showcased by the gallery include those of Chinese minorities, artisans from South-East Asia, South America, Africa and Papua New Guinea as well as antique furniture, objects and block prints from Japan, China and Korea. Aptos Cruz is the exclusive South Australian distributor for several European studio furniture manufacturers including Artifort, Fritz Hansen, Cappellini, Cassina and Poltrona Frau. The gallery offers an interior design consultancy service and commissions works from local and interstate designers for in-house product such as their Trapeze, Criss Cross and Channel tables. The space also houses a book room which, in keeping with the gallery's philosophy, focuses not just on visual art and design but also food and wine, history, antiquities and architecture.
Aptos Cruz represents artists from a broad range of disciplines, most notably several prominent abstract painters and ceramicists whose practices reflect the Ronaynes' aesthetics. This includes Adelaide-based Milton Moon, Keren Seelander, Murray Prichard, David Reid, Ben Sando and Pei Shu Wu. They also show interstate makers, most recently bringing the abstract canvases of Waldermar Kolbusz and ceramic forms of Avital Sheffer to Adelaide for the first time. While the artists they represent reflect a diversity of practices, the gallery does seem naturally drawn to those interested in exploring cross-cultural aesthetics, or influenced by their own cultural heritage. The group exhibition The Space Between in August 2010 showcased such works, comprising ceramics by Sheffer referencing her Mediterranean and Jewish ancestry, Reid's ink and paper works inspired by Chinese art and Wu's canvases exploring his mixed Chinese and Malaysian background.
Though primarily focused on their local clientele, Aptos Cruz does promote the works of its artists interstate and has coordinated a number of touring exhibitions over the past three decades including a painting show from Yuelamu in 1988, the first national tour of Lan Xang-Laotian works and The Lost Sydney Nolans, both in 1993. The Ronaynes have liaised with various Indigenous communities to coordinate exhibitions, most recently an exhibition from Arukun in early 2010 which included works on canvas, sculptural objects and woven baskets, to provide a broad survey of the community's creative output. A major focus of their 2011 exhibition program will be the notion of mentorship and the relationship between emerging and established artists, which again is in keeping with the gallery's overall curatorial agenda, focusing on the crossovers and interconnectedness of art, design and lived experience.
Image: Waldemar Kolbusz, Swan Lake, 2010, oil on canvas, 100 x 100cm.