Heiser Gallery: Broad Spectrum Art - Art Collector

Issue 46, October - December 2008

Bruce Heiser freely admits he loves paint, Yet you’ll still find a broad range of other mediums from photography to sculpture in his eponymous Heiser Gallery in brisbane, writes Timothy Morrell.

The original notion of a gallery as a large, long room is a good description of the Heiser Gallery premises, where Bruce Heiser represents and exhibits a carefully selected group of contemporary Australian artists.

Situated on the border between Brisbane’s raffishly lively Fortitude Valley and somewhat more genteel New Farm, his neighbours range from the light industrial to the high cultural, with the doyen of Queensland gallerists, Philip Bacon located just up the street. Bruce Heiser worked at Philip Bacon Galleries before opening his own gallery in November 2004.

Heiser has adopted a similar method of offering a broad spectrum of art by presenting solo exhibitions of new works from the artists he represents, while maintaining a stockroom that includes major 20th century pieces and some 19th century Queensland heritage art.
Gentrification has taken a firm hold on the neighbourhood, but ladies of the night still ply their trade in the district, keeping it honest. Heiser Gallery nimbly encompasses the Valley’s rising fortunes and its traditional role as the rough, cutting edge of fresh artistic endeavour in Brisbane. The artists he represents are mostly well known and non-Queenslanders, such as Alun Leach-Jones, John Peart and Noel McKenna.

It was, however, always his intention to allow the gallery to evolve by gradually including younger and emerging artists in the mix. The ethereally abstract painter Arryn Snowball was signed on from the start, only three years after his graduation from the Queensland College of Art.

This year two more Brisbane-based artists joined the gallery: Karla Marchesi, a painter of subdued interiors, and Leah Emery, an embroiderer of porn pictures. Heiser is nothing if not diverse in his tastes. He also represents photographer Jane Burton and occasionally shows some small sculptures, but the gallery’s proportions are much better suited to showing works on walls than large three-dimensional objects.

“I love paint,” Heiser admits, and he has a particular appreciation for animated painterly surfaces. This explains how he can enthusiastically represent the ostensibly incongruous combination of Ann Thomson’s classical modernist abstraction and the sometimes abrasive figurative paintings of Ian Smith and Adam Cullen. Before Heiser Gallery opened its doors, for many years Smith had been without gallery representation in the city where he lives. Brisbane is far from being over-supplied with good dealer galleries at the upper end of the market, and Heiser fulfilled a genuine need.

Showing work to clients in the back room became considerably easier a year ago when he dramatically increased the size of the gallery’s storage area and stockroom by expanding into the premises behind. Ample space is in fact one of the major attractions because the building is modern, and what it lacks in architectural character it makes up for with a large off-street parking area directly in front.

Heiser has been able to access some very fine older works for committed collectors, but the straightforward and unpretentious character of his gallery makes it a good place for the less experienced to get to know many of the most established and respected Australian artists.