Biographical. Sheila Whittam 1967-2023
Sheila’s arrival in Adelaide in 1965 saw her enrol in part time studies at the Stanley Street, North Adelaide School of Art. Summer Schools at Goolwa also became a regular retreat from the heat of the Riverland where she lived. Here she met other artists, national and international tutors - one year it was the artist John Olsen. Olsen introduced her to the idea of drawing from the life model. He encouraged her, observed her working in the studio and told her that her work was different, with a distinctive structural linear approach in her art making.
Sheila began exhibiting at the Royal South Australian Society of Art (RSASA)and in the 1980s she became a FELLOW. She was invited to exhibit interstate at the Wiregrass Gallery in Victoria in 1978. Her work was mostly about the human form with “mother and child” as a recurring theme. In South Australia she engaged in her studio practice with enthusiasm, exhibiting her work then being invited to conduct art tutoring with TAFE Riverland.
A significant milestone was a solo exhibition in 1994 at Greenhill Galleries, North Adelaide. Her work at that time comprised large images of the aboriginal figures in landscape, worked in strong large watercolours. This culminated in an art review in the Advertiser by Adam Dutkeiwicz under the caption "Effective Images". The government Office and Status of Women requested to loan a major work from this series.
In 1994 the principal of Adelaide Central School of Art, Director Rod Taylor viewed her portfolio granting her Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). This action enabled Sheila to begin formal studies as a second year student leading to a Bachelor of Arts Visual Art and onto a fourth year in Honours. One of her lecturers, Prof. Chris Orchard, proved to be an encourager and inspiration.
Sheila’s art career is twenty solo shows, thirteen finalists/awards, art prizes and three art residencies (Carrick Hill, The Cedars, an ARTS SA studio grant at Central Studios, and a SALA AWARD in 2016). Her current studio practice focused on the human presence. Later she moves through engagement with mixed media and encaustics, her work took a new direction into non – objective abstraction.