As Co – Founder and Director of Otomys Contemporary in Tetbury, please share with us what is in store for you this Christmas?

I have lived a semi nomadic life style in countries from Africa to Beijing, Australia to Malaysia and now we find ourselves after two years well established in this beautiful country town of Tetbury. Christmas is a time when extended family gather from around the globe to be together and celebrate the festive season. 

What are your top must do activities when celebrating Christmas ? How do you make it special?

Visiting the Bath Christmas market is a family tradition, especially at night when the town is beautifully lit against the background of Georgian architecture.  School holidays allow everyone in the house a chance to enjoy some downtime, always with long dog walks in the countryside and indulging in our favourite winter fare.

Christmas in the Countryside:

Christmas in London:

How does Otomys Contemporary make Christmas special in the UK?

Our year end Christmas event is always a delight as we collaborate with Simon Hamilton of The Surveyor’s House Tetbury – offering the broader community an opportunity to view Otomys Contemporary art within a lavish, stylish and classical townhouse retreat. Open Saturday 14th December 10 am – 4 pm / Sunday 15th December 12 pm – 4 pm. Please RSVP via nikki@otomys.com.

 

Stay in contact over the festive season via Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.

As we wind down over the Christmas period and take much needed time to regroup, we reflect upon the year that was. Taking time is something we cherish at Otomys Contemporary. It allows us to pause, even for just a moment, and reconnect with what is going on around us, with the people that matter most. We sit back with gratitude and pride as we learn and grow from one year to the next.

Otomys Contemporary began the year by welcoming Zarah Cassim to our gallery. South African born, Paris based artist introduced a contemplative series of original oil paintings that questioned both reality and illusion, and attempted to blur the boundary between the two entities.

Hannah Abbott, existing Otomys Contemporary team member, was warmly welcomed into the role of Australian Co – Director in February. Her unwavering passion for art, design and the finer details within creative ventures lead to the appointment of her role. Hannah joined Co – Founder and Co – Director Megan Dicks, slipping into the role with grace and enthusiasm.

At this time we also saw Celia Gullett’s geometric abstraction series come to life in the Melbourne and London galleries. In this series, Gullett explores the interplay of colour and compositions, creating a lively dialogue within and between the works. We have since exhibited and sold Celia’s first large scale geometric abstractions. Observing such development and distillation of practice is most exciting!

As February became March, Parisian artist Caroline Denervaud adorned the skyline of London Fashion Week in Roksanda’s runway showcase – exploring traces of time and abstract movement to compliment the garments on show. The work engulfed the end wall of the runway acting as an expanded backdrop to the fashion show and was also echoed along the length of the ceiling through delicate, organza hanging panels.

March presented two exhibitions – Autumnus in Melbourne and the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea, London. Curated to draw on the energy of shorter days and cooler nights, Autumnus encouraged guests to sit for a moment and listen to music selected by artists to accompany their works. The Affordable Art Fair in Battersea, London was a wonderful celebration of art by many for many! An experience that instills much confidence and pride within the art market.

With great excitement Otomys Contemporary welcomed two new Art Consultants to our team in April; Jessica Leighton appointed for Queensland and Sarah Richardson for New South Wales (Australia). Jess and Sarah are dynamic, effervescent in nature and filled with great determination – a pure delight and asset for the team. Pictured below – Jess, Bethany, Sarah and Liesl at our team conference in Melbourne.

By the middle of the year, we welcomed the work of Danielle Creenaune to Otomys Contemporary. Danielle’s work acts in occupation for the liminal zone between abstraction and representation, where the experience of a place, rather than a literal rendition of landscape feeds her creative practice. Her work – reductive and selective – distills the essence of her subject though mark making on lithographic plates and printmaking techniques. Based in Barcelona, Spain, her superb print studio acts merely as her canvas where the life of pre-lived experiences of landscape and people are brought to life

In July, we were focused on Heath Newman’s Melbourne exhibition, Somnium. The opening drew a crowed of well over 150 people and was a tremendous success. Since, Heath has been working back to back on commissioned works, as well as building his practice – fragments of still life, myths of the world, strokes, scrawls and colour fields. Heath himself describes his work and playful practice as a mental map; both of his subconscious and of the greater, deeper collective consciousness.

September and November were marked as significant months for our gallery in the United Kingdom. In September, Co – Founder and UK Director Nikki Finch popped up in the Marylebone Design District for London Design Festival. Nikki curated a brilliant exhibit of works by Caroline Denervaud, Ian Rayer Smith, Nina Dolan and Linda Oubhi. With our gallery space located in Tetbury (in the Cotswolds) it is important for our artists to be seen in London through carefully curated, collaborative events. Returning to Tetbury for our November winter exhibition, Nikki presented work by Ilaria Rosselli Del Turco, Kira Ni and Luke Eastop. Pictured below – Danielle Creenaune travels from Barcelona to visit Nikki in London.

In the last quarter of the year, we welcomed artists such as Dragica Carlin to Otomys Contemporary, as well as new pastel works from Karin Haas and large light forays by Greg Penn. In celebration of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, our Melbourne window was dressed with Susan Watson Knight’s gentle and unique cyanotypes from the series Soft as Butter.

The year was dotted with collaborative projects for unique and carefully considered spaces with leading design studios and architects. Working along side such industry leaders ignites the power of careful aesthetics whilst highlighting the importance of art within the everyday.

All of a sudden, we sat looking at our diaries to see that December was neatly stamped at the top of the page. December marked an exciting beginning for our newly appointed London Otomys Contemporary Art Consultant, Bethany Woolfall. After spending a few valuable months in the Melbourne gallery, Bethany left for the United Kingdom, ready to take on the New Year with Nikki Finch.

Our year has been filled with countless moments to be thankful for, and without the work and commitment of our incredible artists and team, we would not be able to be where we stand today. It is with tremendous gratitude that we are able to close our books for the year, and spend this time being thankful. We thank you for your commitment and support to the gallery, and we look forward to seeing you all again in the New Year!

Otomys Contemporary Co – Founder and Co – Director, Megan Dicks.

What are your family traditions? I love the Christmas season…  Christmas carols and the scent of a fresh Christmas tree mark the beginning of a stretch of summer holidays ahead. Every year on the first weekend of December my family get together with extended family for the ‘Stirring of the Pudding’ – this tradition, of almost 50 years, is an opportunity to close your eyes, stir the pudding and make a wish… And the older we get the longer we seem to stir the spoon! 

How are you spending the holiday season? At this time of year when the commercial world picks up speed, I tend to split my focus on work deadlines and the endless planning for a family Christmas – I have to remind myself that this is a fortunate and fabulous blend! This year we’ll enjoy this magical season in Vanuatu with a large group of family. 

Books, Music, Podcasts, films you plan to enjoy?  I am planning to read ‘Becoming Michelle Obama’ and ‘In Pieces Sally Field’… And podcasts to listen to: Slow Burn, Caliphate and anything with James Corden. Music: Sampha, Marlon Williams, The Weekend Essentials, The Avener, Riding with The King BB King…!

What’s on your Wishlist? And on the top of my Christmas wish list is a relaxing holiday with extended family, fresh fish and French wine… Tick.

 

Otomys Contemporary Art Consultant Queensland, Jessica Leighton.

How are you spending the holiday season? I’m at home in Brisbane this year, and I hope to make lots of little day trips to the beach, whether Byron, the Gold Coast, or the Sunshine Coast. I had better get started on organising some activities for the other days… a six-year-old’s expectations for school holidays are high! Plus, like many of us, I’m keen to make progress on the old to-do’s – painting the exterior of the house (attempting this; not sure if wise), building an outdoor staircase… My gorgeous sister is expecting a baby around Christmas, so it will be a particularly special one for all of us.

What are your family traditions? We alternate between spending time with family in Melbourne and family in Brisbane, and this year is also all about catching up with friends, which I’m very much looking forward to. The trusty backyard sprinkler will no doubt get a workout.

Places you love to go?The water, the coast… where our friends and family are – where the sunshine is! And of course one of these Christmases, I plan on miraculously waking up in a vineyard in Italy (likely to happen, right?!).

Books, Music, Podcasts, films you plan to enjoy?I’m looking forward to reading at least one of the books I’ve had stacked on my side-table for months and months: Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume, Gillian Mears’ Foal’s Bread, Sarah Thornton’s Seven Days in the Art World, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, and Tim Winton’s Eyrie.I’ll take my son to the new SparkLab at Queensland Museum. I’d like to head to GOMA and the Museum of Brisbane – lots happening at both. A day at the Woodford Folk Festival in late December looks fantastic, as does Music by the Sea. There are also some local wineries holding events over the festive season, so we’ll see!

What’s on your Wishlist? Some tropical plants. I can’t wait to turn my neglected garden in to a tropical haven, or at least get started on creating the beginnings of! ULTIMATE wishlist = swimming with the whales in Tonga.

 

Otomys Contemporary Art Consultant Queensland, Sarah Richardson.

How are you spending the holiday season? This year we’ll be in Qld at my Dads, where the beach is only a few minutes away and life is slower and the days are longer – absolute bliss! The house backs on to the pool which overlooking a river only a few metres, so we’re all looking forward to lazy days in the sun by the pool and the beach. Having a 2-year-old has made me love Christmas even more – experiencing it through his eyes is purely magical! Since he was born he is our absolute focus, even more so at this time of year

What are your family traditions? Having my husband’s family in Christchurch NZ, my brother in living Ubud Bali, my dad on the Sunshine Coast and my mum in Sydney, it’s rare we have a Christmas in our own home. When we’re in Sydney or NZ, Boxing Day is traditionally the day we spend with friends drinking and eating leftovers in abundance. An affair that starts in the morning and finishes up usually way too late into the night. Wherever we are for Christmas each year, my husband insists on carting a 3M high blow-up Father Christmas/Santa with us. He even made an appearances on the South Island of NZ, on a road trip we did a few years ago.

Places you love to go?When we’re in Sydney it’s the beach beach beach! – Balmoral is our favourite, however, this summer we’re intending to scout out more secluded beaches – like Little Bay, Kutti Beach and Parsley Bay. We’ll be definitely visiting The Grounds of Alexandria as they’ve partnered with Disney to bring The Nutcracker and the Four Realms to life, which looks stunning and our son will be swept away!

Books, Music, Podcasts, films you plan to enjoy: Aaaah books – I would love to say I will read everything on my bedside table, however, having a toddler and reading rarely go hand in hand.  Music we listen to aplenty. We have music playing constantly, whether it’s the festive season or a rainy day building lego cities. It’s usually a mixture of old classics from the likes of Aretha Franklin and Prince, to chilled cruisy day tunes of Ziggy Alberts. Films – I need to still see Bohemian Rhapsody! A must! 

What’s on your wishlist?I’m usually one for experiences – Recently a friend gave my husband and I a VR experience which was literally out of this world! Oooh and I’ve had my eye on some luxurious linen bedding which is divine. Otherwise, perfume is always a winner!

AUTHOR Sophie Lewis of Est Living.

It’s a special thing indeed to be welcomed inside a gallery, particularly when you’re greeted by Otomys Contemporary Directors Megan Dicks and Hannah Abbott. Megan and Hannah live and breathe art — and their passion and energy is infectious. Walking into the physical gallery space at Otomys Contemporary, you’re instantly friendly with their fine art; watching an exhibition unfold and listening to the art being framed.

Megan Dicks founded Otomys Contemporary with friend Nicki Finch, with the aim of bridging the gap between quality art and interiors. For Megan, bringing the two in sync makes a home sing, and the ability to elevate this ‘sacred space’ with a layer of humanity and emotion. The boutique gallery has since grown from focus on photography to a range of unique lithographs, etchings, oils and sculpture, presented by a plethora of homegrown and international artists. This is made possible by both Hannah and Megan now co-directing in Melbourne and co-founder Nicki, who established a new gallery base for Otomys Contemporary near London earlier this year. And with a presence in London, the flood gates have opened for bringing European art to Australia.

Together Megan and Hannah place value in intuition and relationships. They recognise the trust involved in entering an artist’s studio — just as they do entering a client’s own home. It’s made clear by how honoured they are to select works that will be in people’s homes for years; a decision they do not take lightly. Listening to them speak about working with a client, artist, or designer, it’s clear they are exceptionally thorough and thoughtful in everything they do.

We were blessed with a moment out of Megan and Hannah’s busy schedule to talk cultural and artistic diversity, the importance of art in the home and what the future looks like for this thriving gallery.

Megan, could you please tell me a bit about Otomys Contemporary’s beginnings? What is the meaning behind Otomys Contemporary’s name and how is this reflected in your business?

Megan Dicks: The name Otomys  is based on a Latin word – it is also the name of a very small mouse that lives in the Sahara desert of Africa. Not only did we love the sound of the name, but we also loved that the little mouse has been around for 2,000 years. It has a tiny body and very large ears. We liked the symbolism of the mouse’s ears because we are a boutique art gallery but also very conscious of listening to the market. We love the longevity of the mouse above all, so that was the basis of the name.

The idea for Otomys Contemporary originated with my Co – Founder Nikki Finch, who is now running Otomys Contemporary in London. Nikki and I are both originally from South Africa; Nikki’s from Cape Town and I’m from Zululand. We combined our passions for art and interiors as we recognised that at the time, art was very seperate from interiors. To go and purchase fabulous quality art, one needed to go to an art gallery which was potentially intimidating. I always felt this was a real loss for the art market because in actual fact, it shouldn’t be overwhelming, it should be really enjoyable. It should feel easy and exciting for buyers, because art can be quite integral to an interior and a well-designed interior can make art sing. We really wanted to bridge the gap.

Obviously that was many years ago and there are quite a few people now working on the same premise, which is wonderful to see. We felt as though we were a frontrunner as we didn’t know of anyone else doing this and consequently we found a niche spot in the market. With Hannah now on board, we have continued to run with this concept. But our grounding is definitely on the art side of the fence, rather than on the interiors. It’s very much about the art while considering the context of the art (the interior).

Hannah, you were appointed co-director at Otomys Contemporary earlier this year. What has it been like to step into this role and what do you enjoy about the projects you’re working on?

Hannah Abbott: Honestly, it’s been a total whirlwind! Yet extraordinary. The way in which Megan and I work together is quite unique and we have a very dynamic growing team to support to our vision. It is a total luxury to walk into the gallery everyday. We operate in a space that is surrounded with honest work by a diverse range of artists who are practicing across varied mediums, intention and story.

With all of our projects, art remains the focus. Our projects are extremely stimulating as we have the opportunity to work with people who are original and innovative. Many challenge design and are open to artwork that has the ability to enhance and transform a space. That is much of the excitement in what we do; working alongside key design leaders within the industry. Educating and sharing the way in which art exists beyond the visual, adding an emotional layer to their spaces.

There really is never a dull moment in our day to day. We can jump from a morning within an artist’s sacred space (their studio) to a meeting on site with a large commercial client. We really are across several stages of the art process, which is most exciting!

How do you ensure artistic and cultural diversity at Otomys Contemporary?

Hannah Abbott: Ensuring we uphold artistic and cultural diversity is paramount! Nikki’s presence in London has allowed Otomys Contemporary to curate in a dynamic way which has been exceptional for our cultural and artistic growth. Otomys Contemporary Tetbury allows us to have a touchpoint overseas – the ability to meet with artists in which we otherwise may not have the opportunity to connect.

Megan Dicks: Our travel allows cultural diversity. I’ve lived around the world; in Holland for a while and obviously in South Africa. Nikki has lived in Africa, China, Belgium and London and Hannah is very well travelled, especially to the United States. Australia is diverse and globalised anyway — you don’t even have to go that far — Melbourne does a very good job in terms of cultural diversity.

With the online platform, we feel diversity is something that we can and should offer. We are really working as a global community online. For us, it’s about wonderful works of art rather than us being locked into any particular culture. While up to two-thirds of our artists are Australian, we still like to keep a real balance deviating from purely Australian work.

In terms of artistic diversity, we started off with photographic work. That was a way of Nikki and I working our way into the market; less risk, more control. It also helped us to understand how a gallery sits in Australia. But very soon we were able to build on that with a physical gallery space. Now we offer lithographs, etchings, photographic work, oils and sculpture. It’s a big range and I think that’s important because many of our clients are repeat clients, so when they come back to us over time they may look for something else. We like to build on their story within their home and offer them a scale and breadth of medium.

Why did you choose to open a gallery near London and what opportunities has this offered you?

Megan Dicks: Bringing international artists to Australia has been major. It’s also been fantastic for our artists to be seen in London. Nikki has done a lot of international art fairs so has taken the work to a wider range of buyers. That is magnificent for the Australian artists. Our idea was always to have a profile that was holistic and not global in scale but in appreciation, so having Nikki across the seas certainly anchors that. It enables us to actually have a sense of what is happening in other parts of the world. Nikki is a fabulous part of the team; from an admin and creative standpoint, she’s invaluable.

Hannah Abbott: Otomys Contemporary Tetbury has given us a greater opportunity to connect, particularly with our artists. Nikki had a beautiful evening in the gallery not so long ago in which many of our artists were in attendance, including the wonderful Ian Rayer Smith. Megan and I have not yet had the opportunity to meet Ian as he resides in England. However Nikki can share on our behalf and Ian can experience Otomys Contemporary from the UK.

How often do you travel and how vital is travel to what you do?

Hannah Abbott: We both value travel enormously. Having grown up in South Africa and now living in Australia, Megan certainly appreciates travel and understands the concept of global living. Half of my immediate family live in America and Megan encourages every trip. This is an incredible support!

Beyond living globally, the two of us love to travel for the experience. From India to Italy, we are forever sharing stories from our time within different cities. We really do love the concept of journey. It’s wonderful to see how other people live and that fills us with energy!

Being in Europe, Nikki’s access to travel is certainly envied. Last month Nikki visited Caroline Denervaud at her studio in the Marais. Nikki had the luxury of jumping on the train and being in Paris within a few hours.

Megan Dicks: There’s something about going across the sea and gaining a new perspective. We love travel because it’s obviously educational. Having a breadth of experience assists us to having more of a global practice. It’s important to sit amongst other cultures and learn what their rhythm is. We both share a sensitivity to the person behind the story; whether it’s the artist or the buyer.

How important do you think art is in the home?

Megan Dicks: From my perspective, the intention of great architecture and interior design shows an appreciation of form, texture and colour, line and light, but is based on the fact that it needs to be both visually pleasing and practical. If you go into a well-designed home and all of those elements are absolutely maximised yet there is no art, there is a sense of void on an emotional level. I believe that a work of art adds the last ten per cent to the experience — a strong and effective piece will add that emotional layer. As a result, the space may resonate with one on a deeper level. Art creates something a little bit more theatrical in the home.

The intention behind the work we feature is to be expressive and our artists do draw from something that is deeper within themselves. They are expressing something internal. It’s not about sitting in any specific space visually, it’s about tapping into their emotions. That definitely comes through in the work. There are a lot of works out there where the intention is more about the visual. However, the artists that we are representing are much more focused on their journey. So many of them are uncommercial in the sense that if we ask them to create a work similar to something they have created before, they can’t. They can’t tap into those emotional spaces, they’ve moved on. That’s why it is important to harness works from artists that have that integrity and authenticity. It’s also why galleries are so important, because these artists often don’t have a commercial aspect to their practice.

Our buyers are investing a lot of money into really beautiful finishes and design for their residential project, so it’s integral that they’re choosing a work that ties it all together.

Hannah Abbott: Furthermore, when working within a home – we are working within a sacred place. To be given the task of helping someone find an artwork that they’re going to grow and live with is an honour.

We really do feel that the energy within the home shifts from the initial consultation to the installation. What Megan said is really important; there’s a real honesty about the work that we represent. And we’re very careful about the way in which we specify and house this artwork – for both the artist and the buyer. It’s very intuitive; we’re always drawing on a feeling as to whether a work works.

We recently met a wonderful couple, who had seven grandchildren under five. They wanted a work for their living room that was playful and fun so that their grandchildren could engage with the piece. That’s what we love, when people understand art is far more than a visual element. It may be central to the home, thus so worthy of time and consideration.

How do you work with local artists and designers?

Megan Dicks: Half of our work is with designers. The basis of Otomys Contemporary is about appreciating the design aesthetic created in a home, so it makes sense that we work very closely with designers. We’re often in a situation where designers will sit with their plans and mood boards and converse with us in regards to the mood, the variety, the feeling they want to evoke and the story. Once we have that brief, Hannah and I have a conversation about how can we pull the project together and propose pieces to sit throughout the home.

When we built both the gallery online and physical galleries, we made it clear that yes, we’re art dealers, but we’re also art consultants. We understand design practices and we also understand what an artist is capable of. Being an art dealer and an art consultant goes hand in hand. We’ve got art consultants in Sydney and Brisbane as well.

It’s important for us to keep cutting edge pieces and new work online. There needs to be that turn over of new work and constant relaying of feedback and guidance with an artist. The dealer and the artist work well when there’s good communication.

Hannah Abbott: One thing in which we are sure that we uphold is that we understand the aesthetic or the intention of each individual — architect, designer or brand — and that we can nail their brief. We ensure we can deliver the best artwork for a space and that it is a unique offering. We’re very conscious that we read all of the information that a designer provides us with in order to tailor their project. That’s the beauty of working with diverse artists and diverse mediums.

How often are your approached and how often do you reach out to artists? How important is social media to your relations?

Megan Dicks: If we had more time we would reach out. We hardly do, even though we know we should. Predominantly we have artists contacting us. Social media, particularly Instagram, is about having a voice out there in a room of likeminded people. It’s not about followers at all.

Hannah Abbott: Megan and I have a pretty healthy shared thread on instagram – we are constantly sending each other artists, artworks and spaces that we admire. It’s critical in this day and age to be aware of what’s going on on social media and using these tool in the most respectful and professional manner. Our instagram feed is a great spot for people to follow our pursuits and keep up with what’s happening in the gallery. We also use social media to share insight to an opening or an artist’s studio. Everything that goes online is meaningful — and that can be a full time job! We want to ensure that we are sharing our unique voice (which reflects our values).

Looking to the future, what new and innovative projects, collections or events do we have to look forward to?

Megan Dicks: We’ve got a huge schedule for the next six months. We’re pulling together a spring exhibition and we’ve been working alongside an Australian celebrity (still undisclosed) on a book about art and nature that will be released early next year. We are expecting to have another solo artist exhibition before the year is out.

Going forward as a business, we’re conscious of aiming high yet ensuring that Otomys Contemporary always remains sincere and obtains a sense of control about what we’re doing. We’re not about scale, we’re about ensuring there is integrity to what we’re doing. Our whole practice is based on our relationship with artists and it’s grounded in this. It’s about building to a size where we’re doing the artists justice. We want to make it something that we’re proud of at the end of the day and it’s paramount that we enjoy what we do. One of the reasons we can work as hard as we do is that our lives come first. We have a life-work balance rather than a work-life balance.