Have you heard of Aboriginal dot painting?
Every work of art has an origin story, whether inspired by one’s unique experiences or an expression of identity. While there are plenty of ways to use art around the home, it’s always important to understand the symbolic meaning behind the visual patterns and colors, especially when they represent a cultural connection with heritage.
When we first came across these designs, we reached out to Bay Gallery Home to find out more. This UK-based gallery is dedicated to Aboriginal art, and represents talented artists from Aboriginal communities in Central Australia through a collaborative process between manufacturers and designers.
We spoke to gallery director Alexandra O’ Brien about their latest award-winning interiors collection My Country, and the story of bringing Aboriginal art culture into the limelight.
How did Bay Gallery Home start?
My family are long-time collectors of Australian Aboriginal artwork, so when I received a request from the Aboriginal community ‘Utopia’ to represent them in the UK, I decided to focus my gallery exclusively on contemporary Aboriginal artists. What we do is to translate the authentic original painting across mediums and scale so that our wallpapers, tiles and rugs are both a piece of art and a complementary element in an interior scheme.
What inspired you to develop the My Country Collection?
Aboriginal art has always struck me as having a graphic dimension perfect for interior and object design. Luckily, I represent two very forward thinking communities in the Central Desert who are not only artistically innovative, but gave me permission to take their work and turn it into a high-end interior design collection. This personal relationship with Aboriginal communities has meant I have access to a wide scope of paintings, which allowed me to launch myself into creating My Country.
Lilly Kemarre Morton, Aboriginal artist
What goes into the design process?
The design process starts with selecting the original paintings that form the basis of our interiors collection. [The artists] are constantly re-interpreting traditional iconography in response to new materials and experiences. They are wonderful at putting colors and patterns together, I see them as the artistic lead and I’m the conduit for its iteration in interior design.
Once the artwork is selected, we start the technical design process, which involves many discussions about how to replicate the designs, create repeats that stay true to the spirit of the artwork without denaturing the original artwork [regarding the colors] – it’s a painstakingly meticulous process, and we’re grateful to be working with such experts.
Each of their designs feature a Dreamtime story, taken from creation myths and sacred symbols that have been passed down across a long-line of generations through the traditional ceremonies of Aboriginal culture. Here, Alexandra tells us about two of their designs – the Emu Dreaming tile and the Mina Mina Dreaming rug.
Emu Dreaming Tile
The Emu Dreaming tile is the depiction of an Emu and an Australian bustard bird fighting over bush raisins around a water hole. Emus are very sacred to Aboriginals. Although they are a highly important source of food, the Aboriginals take care to look after the land in which they reside, making sure there are water sources for the birds.
Mina Mina Dreaming Rug
The Mina Mina Dreaming Rug maps out directions to a sacred site, which women visit by traveling across the country with children singing, dancing and performing ceremonies along the way. In the Dreamtime, a group of women traveled east gathering food, collecting snake vine and digging sticks and performing ceremonies. It represents a cultural tradition that continues to this day.
Alana Ngwarraye, Aboriginal artist
What are the challenges you’ve encountered in bringing this collection to completion?
Our communities live remotely, so there is the tyranny of distance. Then finding manufacturers with the right skill to reproduce the highly sophisticated use of color in the artworks was crucial.
What’s your favorite part about creating the collection?
Meeting the artists in the Australian outback and looking through so many beautiful artworks, and then sharing their work through My Country, it really captures people’s imagination.
Which home style would fit the items in the collection?
The layered colors and abstract nature of designs in the My Country collection make them surprisingly versatile in interiors – they suit the simplicity of modern ‘white’ interiors as well as the more adorned Arts & Crafts styles.
The botanical wallpapers work well in country farmhouses and the geometric tiles look fabulous around pizza ovens, Aga ranges, swimming pools – think Ibiza.
Keeping the unique nature of Australian Aboriginal painting in mind, the translation of colors and patterns into wallpapers, rugs and tiles is impressive. It’s no wonder that the collection recently won the World Interiors News Award for innovative surfaces and accessories.
Would you be interested in the collection? Let us know in the comments below.
If you want to know more about choosing art for your home, read our interview with Mark Saunderson, the director of the Asia Contemporary Art Show, as he gives us tips on buying art for the home.
Project: My Country
Photos: Bay Gallery Home
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.