South Australian Living Artists (SALA) Festival is the biggest open-access visual art festival in the world. This year a whopping 8000 artists are taking part in the month-long soiree that spans nearly 700 exhibitions and over 500 venues across Adelaide and regional SA. It’s a monster program, and we’ve dog-eared it so you don’t have to. Here are 10 exhibitions worth checking out.

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Curated by visual artist Fruzsi Kenez, this mixed-group (and mixed-media) exhibition at Adelaide City Library is a collection of visual responses to the question, “What is it to be an Australian?”. It’s a compelling reminder of the power of diversity, with works from Australian-born and migrant artists, and creatives from Adelaide’s LGBTIQ, disability and multilingual communities.

Beneath

What are the consequences of laying your head on a pillow next to someone else? That’s the premise of Beneath, a major solo exhibition by Margaret Ambridge, which taps into our most intimate shared experiences. Sheets and pillows are the canvases for her charcoal portraits. She interviewed each of her subjects, delving into their relationships; slips of paper with their memories and lovers’ names hang among the works, which are both intensely individual and universally recognisable.

Every Person on the B10 Bus

In this series of drawings, which took three years to amass, artist Grant Parke documents anonymous commuters on the B10 bus (which traverses West Lakes to Magill). New to Adelaide and spending a lot of time on public transport, Parke was “desperate to feel some connection with people”, looking for unguarded moments in his subjects that revealed something beyond the surface.

Grid Haus

For digital artist Danny Jarratt, public ideology is like a grid made up of lines we can’t cross and boxes we must stay inside of. His warehouse-rave-inspired installation, at Port Adelaide gallery Fontanelle, uses light and sculpture to challenge those boundaries by creating a space where the “grids of reality” are always in flux.

Mullets on the Street

It’s been said the mullet is a lifestyle, not a hairstyle. Just ask Tom Maguire. The emerging visual artist (and mullet maven) is cataloguing SA’s best party-in-the-back haircuts in a book – and he’s taking his search to the CBD streets this month, with a portable hairdressing salon in tow. Think your locks are luscious enough to pull off a mullet? Check out Maguire’s Facebook or Instagram pages for pop-up locations and times.

This Is a Place

Kaspar Schmidt Mumm, from artist-run SMOCK gallery, is exhibiting his latest body of work at Adelaide’s new immersive multistorey arts space and bar, Arthur, in an art deco building on Currie Street. The vivid mixed-media exhibition, This Is a Place, incorporates painting, performance, photography, sculpture, sound and video.

“To see ourselves…”

Sculptor Margaret Dodd was a pioneer of the Funk Ceramic movement, known for her internationally acclaimed ceramic Holden series and short film This Woman Is Not a Car, which were shown at ACE Open in 2017. Her latest exhibition is Terra-nullius, Terra-cotta, Terra-damnata, a major installation representing her passion around the politics of the survival of the planet. Also exhibiting is Adelaide-born realist painter Tsering Hannaford, who’s interested in examining the roles and expectations of women through self-portraiture. Her new works also explore the psyche, but in sculptural form.

Touches & 30°S

Gilles Street cafe Sibling and its sister retail space Ensemble are hosting side-by-side exhibitions this year. Preoccupied by stillness, photographer Lana Adams – whose work entwines her personal relationships with landscapes – captures a tender rush of nostalgia in Touches at Sibling. Next door, Anna Horne and Olivia Kathigitis explore sustainable and conscious matter through sculpture and photography in 30°S, in line with Ensemble’s environmental ethics.

Under Ground

The Old Treasury and Tunnels, now the site of the Adina Apartment Hotel on Flinders Street, are an attraction in their own right. (In colonial times, gold from Victoria was stored in the tunnels before being smelted into Australia’s first gold coin.) Trawl through the underground passages – minus the history lesson – at this year’s SALA Festival. Eight emerging artists from Floating Goose Studios are hosting a subterranean exhibition.

Amy Joy Watson, Andy Nowell, Banjo Jackson

A shed in Brooklyn Park in Adelaide’s west seems like an unlikely spot for an exhibition. But it’s here visual artist Amy Joy Watson, poet and muso Banjo Jackson, and photographer (and Sunny’s Pizza co-owner) Andy Nowell will come together for a one-arvo-only event. Expect sculpture, ceramics, needlepoint and poetry, plus wood-oven pizza in the backyard for a gold-coin donation.

SALA Festival runs throughout August. For the full program visit salafestival.com.