December 3, 2020
Arts & Culture

A treasure trove of First Nations art

Paintings, textiles, ceramics, jewellery, homewares and other works from around 50 Indigenous art centres across Australia will be for sale at the Tarnanthi Art Fair in Adelaide this weekend.

Tarnanthi director Nici Cumpston with works for sale at the art fair, including (front left) ceramics from the Hermannsburg Potters.

The fair, presented by the Art Gallery of SA alongside its annual Tarnanthi exhibition, is an important source of income for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and their communities – especially this year, when COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of many exhibitions and other events.

Tarnanthi director Nici Cumpston says the timing of the 2020 event, which is being held in a marquee at Lot Fourteen, means it is also ideal for people seeking Christmas gift ideas.

“Each art centre will have a range of price points, so from around $50 to over $5000,” Nici says.

“You get to see a wonderfully broad cross-section of different cultures and landscapes and styles of art from different regions, communities and art centres.”

The Tarnanthi Art Fair is designed as a COVID-safe event and was moved to a later date and a new site due to the pandemic, with an online portal on the gallery’s website also offering the opportunity to buy direct from the art centres.

It is one of only a couple of Indigenous art fairs in Australia that feature works from centres all over the country, and while few artists are able to attend in person this year, video portraits and other materials will give visitors to an insight into their stories and art practice.

Some of the art for sale at this weekend’s Tarnanthi Art Fair.

Among those represented at Lot Fourteen will be the Hermannsburg Potters, a group of Western Arrarnta artists who create ceramic pots from terracotta clay using a traditional hand-coil pinch technique and then decorate them with vibrant paintings.

Centre manager Rebecca Capp says around five artists at different stages of their career will have major ceramic works in this year’s fair, with their pots featuring images of local animals and birds, contemporary life on country, and childhood memories.

Many of the Hermannsburg Potters artists are said to be heavily influenced by the painting style of famous artist Albert Namatjira, pioneer of the Hermannsburg school of watercolourists.

“The senior artists, especially, are really amazing technical watercolour artists,” Rebecca says. “That influence is definitely there, and the work of those senior artists then influences the younger artists coming through.”

South Australian Aboriginal art centres represented at the fair include Ernabella Arts, Australia’s oldest continuously-running Indigenous art centre, which is presenting canvas, wood and ceramic works, and Ninuku Arts, whose artists are known for their powerful colour palettes and range of works in different media, including painting, jewellery, sculpture and glassware.

The fair features works selected by Aboriginal art centres across Australia.

One of the wonderful things about Tarnanthi Art Fair is the incredible diversity of works and artists represented, says Sally Scales, spokesperson and community projects coordinator for the APY Art Centre Collective, which represents seven art centres working with more than 500 artists on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands.

“These artists paint an extension of themselves because they’re painting their country, they’re painting their stories, they’re painting their tjukurpa, their laws … so you get a little bit of that artist, a little bit of that country, a little bit of everything else comes through, and I think that’s the most amazing thing.”

The Art Gallery of SA says the Tarnanthi Art Fair is committed to the Indigenous Art Code, with every cent from artworks purchased going to artists and their communities. Almost $3.5 million in sales has been generated across all the art fairs since the first one was held in 2015.

You can visit the 2020 Tarnanthi Art Fair at Lot Fourteen (see map here) from 5-8pm on Friday, December 4, and 10am-5pm on Saturday and Sunday. The site has been designed to be COVID-safe, and visitors will be required to check in using the QR code near the entrance. The Tarnanthi Art Fair online portal will be on the AGSA website until Sunday, December 6.

Visitors to the Tarnanthi Art Fair can expect to see a range of different painting styles.
Subscribe Today! Subscribe to South Australia's biggest-selling magazine, showcasing the best of Adelaide and South Australia. From only $9 per issue
including free delivery to your door.