Take a look at almost any of the paintings (or even the jewelry) inside The Australian Aboriginal Art Gallery, which opened in April on Broughton Street, and brightly colored patterns will pop, while dots dance and symbolic strokes sway across the many canvases.
The warm colors and vibrant hues certainly bring life to artwork, but there’s also a not-so-secret side that gallery owner Kevin Reid shares with guests gazing at the paintings made by Aboriginal artists in Australia: the stories.
In the paintings, long curving lines can represent many things, such as the ways the rain drains or the countryside that men traversed. The same goes with restrained and intricate dot artwork; some artists, such as is Cowboy Louie Pula, use the dots to depict a trail left by a bush turkey around desert foliage, while others, such as his wife, Elizabeth Kunoth Kngawarray, use a series of tiny flicks to show wind’s movement through the yam leaf.
“This is where it all started. The stories of this art goes back tens of thousands of years,” Reid explained. “They’ve never had a written language, so everything’s been passed down through song, dance, ceremony and art, so there’s a story in pretty much every piece.”
The intricate fine art pieces, made with an abundance of patience, span from the unfamiliar to famed Aboriginal artists, such as Ronnie Tjampitjinpa, Walala and Thomas Tjapaltjarri, Anna Petyarre, Gracie Ward Napaltjarri, Damien and Yilpi Marks, Mary Brown Napangardi and the very famous Lily Kelly Napangardi, who could be classified as one of the top 20 most collectable artists, along with Gloria Petyarre, whose works are also in the gallery.
Reid, who moved from Australia to the United States to marry his sweetheart from Atlanta, was around Aboriginal people when he lived in Alice Springs, Australia and, he says, he has always been interested in their culture.
“I looked into it and though there could be a market here,” Reid said. “There were only four other Aboriginal art galleries in all of America, that we could find, and none on the Eastern Seaboard.”
With a few friends in Atlanta who owned art galleries, Reid had the support he needed and was able to move to Savannah with his new wife to open their own gallery and share enthralling artwork from his home with the locals and visitors in Savannah.
“They come in, have a look and just go ‘wow,’” Reid shared. “It’s just something they’ve never seen before; it’s just completely different.”
The Australian Aboriginal Art Gallery is located at 404 W. Broughton Street, open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday, noon-6 p.m. For more information, call the gallery at (912) 436-6625 or go to theaustralianaboriginalartgallery.com.
This article was originally published in the 2016 July-August issue of Savannah Scene Magazine and was republished in honor of the late Kevin Reid, who passed away on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016.