Neville Assad-Salha was introduced to art during high school, when his parents kindly invited an artist to stay with their family.
“My parents were wonderful people,” Neville says. “They gave him a studio, and from there I haven’t looked back. He was the real instigator for me to go to Art School.”
Neville would watch and listen to this artist talk about the art world, and through him, met many interesting people.
“I was probably only 14 or 15 at the time, but we would go to Art School Balls and do photo shoots, it was just fantastic,” Neville recalls.
Though Neville was raised in Monash SA, his parents were born in Lebanon, and in 1960 the family returned, providing Neville with the chance to spend one year of school there.
“That provided a lot of influence in terms of ambience, environment, and culture,” Neville explains.
When he left high school, Neville became a sign writer, moving on to Art School to be a painter.
There, Neville was introduced to Bert Flugelman, the man responsible for the Rundle Mall Balls.
“He was my Sculpture professor at the time, and he introduced me to clay,” Neville explains.
From Bert’s lectures, Neville was inspired to leave painting to pursue working with clay.
“I went into that sort of area in 1973, at the South Australian School of Art under Milton Moon, who was a great character,” Neville says.
Neville was such a passionate student that he would arrive at 9:00 am and leave at 9:00 pm.
“I really wanted to have the skills when I left,” Neville explains, “and to be able to survive from my art. I didn’t just want to make it a hobby or for exhibitions, I wanted to make art pots for people as well.”
During this first year of Art School, Neville returned to Lebanon to work in the village pottery for six months.
He then found his way to the Barossa Valley, where he ran a studio between 1978 and 1983 before moving to Victoria, where he worked in leading universities and art schools.
Ultimately, Neville was drawn back to the Barossa, where he and his wife, Lynn Nitschke have established a beautiful home in a small town on the outskirts.
The Barossa fascinates Neville. He enjoys looking at history and is especially interested in the settlers’ cottages made from earth and stone by the forefathers of German and English heritage.
When Neville looks at these old cottages, he doesn’t see just an old building, he likes to imagine the kind of smells that once came from it, and what sort of relationships were built inside.
He feels strongly about the need to retain these homes.
“We’ve ignored these cottages and they are falling down, which is a real shame,” Neville says. “These are our history, and they were built by the forefathers of our Barossa, so why do we let them fall down and build new, when we can actually restore them and still put a new building next to them?”
In 2004, Neville again returned to Lebanon, this time to teach ceramics, sculpture and Concept Art at the American University of Beirut until 2017.
“For many years I also ran private classes in ceramics outside of the University, which has produced many prolific makers, with some now exhibiting in Italy and London,” Neville says.
Throughout the years Neville has truly established the ultimate, exotic lifestyle of an artist.
Since 1991 he has returned to Lebanon every year, and now continues to return with Lynn for three months of each year.
“Lebanon has been exciting for me,” Neville explains. “It’s really been a cross over between two cultures for many years, and I have admiration for them both.”
He now has a studio in Lebanon, where he produces works and exhibits at different universities.
Currently, Neville divides his time between teaching ceramics in Lebanon, working in his studio in the Barossa and managing his very own art gallery, in The Q on Hallett at Adelaide.
“This building was the first Sunday School in Adelaide that later became the old Q Theatre,” Neville explains. “My wife, Lynn and I have spent many years renovating the old heritage building. It’s taken a lot of time and been a big, big job.”
This stunning space now exhibits Neville’s work and is also a venue for professional music.
“It’s a magic building,” Neville says proudly. “It’s got a stage in it now and we do a music night, and even have Lynn’s grandfather’s piano on the stage, which is a 1906 piano tuned perfectly. So, the Q Theatre is the place to be.”
Neville’s works are in many private collections and State Galleries in Australia. He has also received many commissions, including the Sydney Opera House. But what he is most proud of is his hands.
“The fact that they can still apply themselves to a wonderful voice box of playing with a malleable material like clay,” Neville smiles. “It’s poetry, from the hands and the mind, and being able to project something which is worthwhile to people to appreciate and have a bit of joy from, which I think is wonderful.”