SHE lives and runs her gallery in one of the artiest communities in WA, but Anna Kanaris looks to the furthest, most isolated corners of the country to find work to exhibit.
It was during a visit to the central desert 20 years ago that Kanaris fell in love with the art of the local Aboriginal people and the way they told stories through vibrant and detailed paintings.
From there Artitja Fine Arts was born, an exhibition space dedicated to breaking down cultural barriers by introducing local art lovers to the work of some of Australia’s most remote Aboriginal artists and art centres.
“My true introduction to Indigenous art was in the central desert, and my contacts and interest area grew from that visit-I think it was the vastness of country, the warmth of the artists who I met at the time and the huge cultural difference which I was in awe of,” she said.
“I was very aware of the huge distances between the remote communities and South Fremantle, and it didn’t sit well with us to send canvas and payment when we needed new works, so we ensured we developed contact with reputable galleries and the growing number of remote art centre communities over the years.
“Now we have good relationships with well over 20 art centres through which we source work.”
Kanaris said it could take some doing to get the artwork to Fremantle and planning an exhibition could start as much as two years in advance.
“It can be a bit risky, because the way I work is that I only show artists work that appeals to me, so I need to trust my ‘eye’ as I choose aesthetically, rather than who the artist is and how well they are known,” she said.
“Where possible, once I have the go ahead on an exhibition I make every attempt to visit the art centre to make the personal selection, but if the community is too remote I select via images and the art is then freighted to us.
“Mostly we work with acrylics and the paintings are sent rolled, but our most recent exhibition was barks and larrakitj (poles) and was the ‘heaviest’ exhibition we have received.
“Just the larrakitj weighed between 15-25kg and over 20 barks were sent packaged.”
The gallery’s work was recognised this year with a Fremantle Business Award in the Outstanding Cultural Enterprise category.
Kanaris said she wanted to do her part to bridge the gap between metropolitan Perth and some of the state’s most remote artists.
“We very strongly believe that making cultural connections is so important, and that many indigenous artists paint not just because that is their profession but because they want the non-indigenous world to learn about their culture and stories,” she said.