A Brief Overview

The Australian Aboriginal peoples are the oldest continuous culture in the world, dating back to 65,000 years or more.  The Aboriginal people do not have a written language so relied on passing on culture and knowledge through story-telling and visual depictions.  These visual depictions were created by incising ceremonial tools, painting on rock walls with ochres and other natural pigments, painting their bodies, and by impermanent sand drawings.

There are over 250 different Aboriginal language groups and over 800 different dialects.  Each of these language groups has unique cultural practices, and so this is reflected in their art in terms of subject and over-all aesthetic.  Aboriginal people paint subjects that are culturally derived and relevant.  In Arnhem Land, the artistic style is often reflected through its use of ochre colours, rarrking (or cross-hatching) lines typically painted with a fine hair or thin reed, and its depiction of spirit figures and animals often showing the internals organs of an animal.  This is commonly referred to as an x-ray style.  In the Central and Western Deserts of Australia, the dominant style is referred to as dot art.  Unlike the Aboriginal people of Arnhem Land, they do not paint figuratively, instead they ‘map’ country from an aerial point of view.  The artworks capture certain parts of country that are culturally and spiritually relevant to the individual; these are often paintings of their Dreaming stories.  Dreamtime stories hold the mythology of the Aboriginal people and are passed from one generation to the next through custodianship.

Find out some facts about Aboriginal Art below with everything you need to know on this unique tradition.

 

Highest Prices Achieved by Aboriginal Artworks

In 2007, a major artwork by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, a founding member of the Papunya Tula art movement and celebrated artist, sold for AUD$2.4 million.  Two months later, a major work by Utopia artist, Emily Kame Kngwarreye titled, Earth’s Creation  sold at auction for the highest price ever achieved by an Australian female artist, AUD$1.056 million. In 2017, this same painting sold for AUD$2.4million.

 

 

Aboriginal Art - Warlugulong by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Warlugulong (detail) 

Aboriginal Art - Earth's Creation by Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Earth’s Creation

 

Getting to know Aboriginal art A Brief Overview The Australian Aboriginal peoples are the oldest continuous culture in the world, dating back to 65,000 years or more.  The Aboriginal people do not have a written language so relied on passing on culture and knowledge through story-telling and visual depictions.  These visual depictions...