Legally defined as the people who are a member of the “aboriginal race of Australia”, this rich culture people lived isolated on Australian continent for 40000 years, till the first waves of colonies arrived on the 18th century, mainly from England, even though their first contact with the white men dates from 1606, when a Dutch navigator called William Janszoon became the “European discovery of Australia”. Now that we introduced a little about their recent history, let’s talk about the richness of their culture and these particular ways to make what we call art. Here are 7 things you must know about aboriginal art.
Variety of ways and creativity:
There are several types of aboriginal art, and methods of making art, including rock painting, dot painting, rock engravings, bark painting, carvings, sculptures, and weaving and string art. There is also a richness of symbols and a great gradient of colors, except for red that symbolizes blood (the red color is used on special types of painting).
Rock painting is one of the most ancient art expressions on earth, even became a stereotype when we talk about primitive civilizations. The oldest firmly dated rock art painting in Australia is a charcoal drawing on a rock fragment found during the excavation of the Narwala Gabarnmang rock shelter in south-western Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. Dated at 28,000 years it is one of the oldest known pieces of rock art on Earth with a confirmed date. It’s not particularly seen today on modern forms of aboriginal art.
Also one of the most ancient activities in art since humanity beginnings, engravings depends largely on the type of rock being used. In Australia there are a lot of different kinds of rock art, with highlighted places like Murujuga (Western Australia), Sydney rock engravings (Sydney) and Paranamitee (central Australia). Murujuga is a special case, as is said to be the world’s largest collection of petroglyphs.
Papunya art is a very particular form of art related to aboriginal people, with an odd and special use of certain kind of colors to create the wanted effects on the paintings. Consists mainly of various paint colors like yellow (representing the sun), brown (the soil), red (desert sand) and white (the clouds and the sky) – these are the most traditional aboriginal colors. Papunya can be painted on everything, to screen for rocks. Usually it was connected with representing the religion and spiritual conception of the people, and also to represent and register dreamtime perceptions. On modern artwork, dots are generally applied with bamboo satay sticks (different than ancient forms of aboriginal art).
Aboriginal bark paintings:
The ability of bark paintings demonstrated by aboriginal people is highly appreciated worldwide, being regarded as fine art- with high prices at the finest international art markets.
Aerial landscape art:
Other ability that shows the real originality and genius of this people is the ancient aerial landscape art. Often titled simply “country”, this form of art if often used to tell a traditional dreaming story, kind a map like, birds-eye view of a desert landscape.
Usually consists of stones, which about 30cm in size, laid in patterns extending over tens of meters. Particularly fine examples are in Victoria, where the stones can be very large (up to 1 meter high). For example, the stone arrangement at Wurdi Youang consists of about 100 stones arranged in an egg-shaped oval about 50m across.