Aboriginal Art Styles
Aboriginal Australians have an oral and visual mode of communication. Dreaming stories were often illustrated with sand drawings as they were narrated. More permanent examples of this practice are documented in the imagery of ancient rock art, traditional bark painting and the more modern dot art techniques executed in acrylics on canvas.
Aboriginal Rock Art - Hand Stencils
Mt. Borradaile, Arnhem Land, Northern Australia
Aboriginal Rock Art is the earliest form of indigenous painting. Some of the examples found in Arnhem Land can be dated back 28,000 years. These rock paintings uniquely record the activity of indigenous artists from prehistoric times up to the present day as succeeding generations painted alongside and over the work of their ancestors.
CURLY BARDKADUBBU (c.1924–1987)
'Namarnkol, The Silver Barramundi', c.1980 (earth pigments on Stringybark (Eucalyptus Tetrodonta)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Aboriginal Bark Paintings were not originally painted as art objects. They were designed as ceremonial objects for use in social and religious rituals. When the 19th century explorers and anthropologists first saw these 'artworks' (through their western-tinted aesthetic spectacles) they recognised a product that could be adapted for sale to collectors in the cities. For better or for worse, this was the indigenous artists' introduction to the commercial art market.
CLIFFORD POSSUM TJAPALTJARRI (1932-2002)
'Warlugulong' 1977 (synthetic polymer paint on canvas) c.6.5ft X 11ft
© Estate of Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri
Aboriginal Dot Painting is the characteristic style of modern indigenous Australian art but its imagery retains its roots in traditional Aboriginal culture. The catalyst that changed the conventional vision of indigenous artists was the introduction of modern synthetic paints on canvas. These new polymer paints offered artists a wider choice of colors than their natural ochre palette. The flexible quality of polymer pigments on canvas allowed them to increase of the scale of their work and roll it up for transportation and exhibition outside their community.