Mary Valley, Gympie, QLD

Mary Valley, Gympie, QLD

As a child I grew up in an art family, my father Ken Gailer is a professional painter and there were many generations of artists before me. My own art practise began when, as a 19 year old surf rat, I packed my bundle and left Queensland for Sale Victoria. Arriving at this rural town for the TAFE photography course I had signed up for, I was surprised how different the town looked from the brochure. Anticipating a ‘gateway to the mountains and sea’ the dead flat terrain, kept afloat by dairy and cattle farmers, had a peculiar conservatism that I experienced early on. The local cops arrested me for wearing checks on checks (checkered jacket and pants). While they rough-housed me for wearing ‘my pyjamas’ in public I questioned their authority regarding fashion and ended up in the paddy wagon and spent a night in the cell. I went on to complete my TAFE photography course, finishing the year committed to be an artist.

Moving to Melbourne in 1999, I cut my teeth at Monash University Fine Arts completing with a major in printmaking and first class honours. In these years I practised traditional print methods, intaglio, relief printing and lithography. Awarded the screen printing prize, I loved its immediacy and developed a technique using photo silk screen and screen filler as a positive, slowing building the image with a reduction style technique and with screen stripper, working backwards from a reduction to a positive. This process allowed me to screen print hundreds of layers of colour and fine detail.

On finishing the Fine Arts Degree, I founded the gallery Brunswick Arts. Brunswick had become my home because of its cheap rent, $125 p/w for a house, and I was drawn to its multicultural buzz. While there were plenty of artists studios in Brunswick, exhibitions spaces were low on the ground. So in 2004 I established the gallery, holding monthly exhibitions, showing emerging artists.  After 24 shows, I handed Brunswick Arts over to a group of artists who kept it running for another eleven years, closing in 2015.  

At the time of passing the baton on Brunswick Arts I was 28 years old, freshly divorced and sick of art. I jumped in my car and headed north to film surfers for DVD surf magazine called Local Liquid created by a childhood friend and I, at a time when DVD technology was new and we anticipated it would have an impact on print media. After two DVD’s and six months of chasing surf on the north coast, I missed art and Melbourne.

This is me at Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Returning to Melbourne in 2007 I started working at Niagara Galleries where I installed and catalogued the work of some of Australia’s great artists. My art practice was in lunch breaks and evening hours. I started to engage with mass produced commercial lithographic printing methods, buying ad space in magazines to publish new work. This process could be executed quickly and reach a large audience. I entered a piece in the 2008 Fremantle Print Award and, to the horror of many, my work Hot Process was awarded first prize. Published in a page in Art Almanac this winning work could be purchased for $4.50.

Hot process, 2008  winner of the Fremantle Print Award

Hot process, 2008

winner of the Fremantle Print Award

My work during this period, 2008 and 2012 is from the perspective as a print media artist, and explores issues around print, publications, mass production, the copy, the unlimited edition, authenticity, the art market, and the much contested space of the original and unique. The work challenges the concept that there is such a thing as the original, reflecting my personal belief that ideas surrounding uniqueness are related to ideas about god and have their formation in religion. This position is very hard for the art audience to accept, as we are always talking about the ‘mark’ and the artist as some kind of unique anomaly in human kind – which in my view is completely bogus. Printmaking, for me, holds the key to these questions as the manufacturer of the copy – and is itself an art technology with a quality that sits comfortably on the fence between concept and production.

During this time I wore a number of different hats in the Melbourne Art world, I was registrar for Niagara Galleries, Lecturer in printmedia at RMIT University, Curator at Dark Horse Experiment and began my PhD.  These roles had a huge influence on my work and I see this time as a type of condensed research.

While I am criticised by my wife for not keeping my work ‘on brand’ my interest in a range of disciplines grows. Twenty-years on from hitch-hiking to Sale Victoria from Queensland to begin a photography course, I have exhibited nationally and internationally had 18 Solo Exhibitions and been involved in over 50 group shows. My work is in the National Gallery of Victoria collection, and others including University of Southern Queensland, National Art School, Curtin University, RMIT University, Burnie Regional Gallery, City of Freemantle and private collections. I have been the artist in residence at Art Haus National Art Gallery Solomon Islands, Fremantle Arts Centre Western Australia, Megalo Print Studio Canberra and RMIT Melbourne.

My work continues to develop in print, sculpture, painting, performance, video and digital media. I am constantly experimenting with new processes and techniques. I explore scale and process without regard for convention and I am not interested in the expectations of the market or locality. Parochial art production bores me – Art is both a tool to understand our most secret personal stories and a vessel to explore the grandest universal theories.