About art

WHAT IS ALL ABOUT

Australian Aborigines (Indigenous Australians) are the original inhabitants of the Australia continent (initially much larger Gondwana) that have occupied the place for at least fifty thousand years. In the present Australian society dominated by Western cultural traditions Aborigines are a tiny minority who retain a distinct identity and range of cultures.

Australian Aboriginal Art is art produced by Australian Aborigines, covering works that pre-date European colonisation as well as contemporary art based on traditional culture. It covers a wide medium including painting on leaves, wood carving, rock carving, sculpture, and ceremonial decoration and clothing, as well as artistic embellishments found on weaponry and also tools.

Traditionally, paints were often made from water or spittle mixed with ochre and other rock pigments. Painting was then performed largely on people, rock walls or bark (particular that of the paperbark gum). Tools used included primitive brushes, sticks, fingers and even a technique of spraying the paint directly out of the mouth onto the medium resulting in an effect similar to modern spraypaint.

Although Contemporary Aboriginal Art still includes carving, sculpture and paints on natural base materials, it is primarily represented by paintings on canvases and linen using either natural earth pigments or colours made from synthetic polymer (acrylic).

There are a wide variety of styles of Aboriginal painting. Three most common types are:

  • the cross-hatch or X-ray art from the Arnhem Land region of the Northern Territory, in which the skeletons and viscera of the animals and humans portrayed are drawn inside the outline, as if by cross-section;
  • dot-painting where intricate patterns, totems and/or stories are created using dots; and
  • stencil art, particular using the motif of a handprint

The so-called „dot painting“ refers in large part to the origins of the Papunya painting movement of the 1970s. Because originally, the paintings were made for religious and cultural purposes only (they were used in addition to the oral hand over of aboriginal history and secret knowledge) and not for the art market, the dots are, in effect, a form of camouflage to cover secret-sacred ceremonies.

Whether painting on canvases, linens and papers, boards, barks, woods or other base matrial and whether using acrylics or natural earth pigments, there is the single most common subject matter of aboriginal art – landscape-based myths, that are called the Dreaming or the Dreamings.

The Dreamings are Ancestral Beings that both moved about in the past, forming the landscape and creating the plants, animals, and peoples of the known world, and continue to inhere in the living generations. That ancient period of world creation can also be called the Dreaming or also sometimes referred to as the Dreamtime, however the Dreaming is not an idealized past. In the myths, the Dreamings were born, live, and sometimes die, but at the same time they remain eternally present. They exhibit all the faces of human virtue, vice, pleasure, suffering and just as pople do today, they frequently broke the law. Thus they cannot be seen as models of approved moral behavior. However, they also founded religious ceremonies, marriage rules, food taboos, and other laws of human society, and in that sense, the Dreaming is the Law.

Although living eternally, all of the Dreaming Beings have their physical counterparts (animals, plants, water holes, rock formation, or people). Their visible transformation are literally represented in every single stone of earth and drop of water, because all landscape is someone´s home.

And most of the works painted by Aborigines (whether they are called „traditional“ or transitional) represent just the places, events, and Dreaming character of the myths.