Despite the impact of COVID-19 keeping tourists and their dollars away from remote Aboriginal art centres, artists from around 20 remote art centres will still be able to make sales this January through Artitja Fine Art Gallery’s Summer Salon Exhibition.

Anna Kanaris is the Director of the Indigenous fine art gallery in Fremantle, Western Australia. She said COVID-19 makes summer exhibitions even more important since art fairs and artist visits to the city became impossible.

“It was very difficult, particularly at the outset, because the artists are working really hard getting all their work ready for art fairs, but [travel] stopped,” she said.

“It’s been even more important to get that income, to keep having those exhibitions and promoting the work, and getting people to come into the gallery and buy paintings.”

The exhibition runs from the January 9-31 and will display a variety of sculpture, painted, and found object works from Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia.

The Gallery sources works from centres including Martumili Artists in the Pilbara, Warlukangu Artists in the Territory, Munupi Art Centre in the Tiwi Islands, as well as Ernabella Artists and Ninuku Artists in the APY Lands.

Works by Angilyiya Tjapiti Mitchell will be available for purchase at Artitja’s Summer Salon Exhibition. Photo supplied.

Kanaris said one highlight of the exhibition will be a collection of found object artworks from the Blackstone tip.

“What’s really interesting is that these are old metal objects that were discarded. They’ve been retrieved, they’ve been cleaned. And they’ve been painted on,” she said.

“[They’re] quite interesting in terms of being a little bit different to what we expect of sculptural works, which might be carvings or hollow logs, which are more fine art objects. These become fine art, but the actual material comes from the rubbish tip.”

Kanaris said the exhibition is an opportunity for people to get to know more about Indigenous art and culture.

“We’re very interactive with visitors to the exhibition,” she said.

“We’ve always seen the importance of including that, because it’s not just about selling the art, it’s about the whole experience of finding it, reviewing it and learning about it, and then going away more informed.”

The exhibition is in a salon style, with works arranged tightly together. The Gallery is also member of the Indigenous Art Code, and the exhibition includes a range of ethically sourced and licensed merchandise which send royalties back to the artists.

Artitja’s Summer Salon 2021 is free to the public and runs January 9-31 at EARLYWORK, 330 South Terrace, South Fremantle. Opening hours are 10am-4pm, Wednesday to Sunday.

By Sarah Smit