Aboriginal Artwork

Mate Education > news > Aboriginal Artwork

1. The dot style only emerged in the early 1970’s from the remote Northern Territory community of Papunya.

2. Aboriginal people are not a homogenous group but rather a diverse group of hundreds of nations and clans within. There is thought to have been around 250 languages and 600 dialects spoken at the time of white settlement.

3. Who can paint aboriginal artwork?

It seems obvious, but aboriginal art is only considered Aboriginal if painted by someone who is of that origin. A non-Indigenous Australian does not have the authority to paint an Aboriginal piece of artwork. But this does not mean that all other ethnicities are banned from creating their own artwork. There are many workshops around Australia, which are open to anyone who would like to learn more about the art form.

4. Visual story

The artwork is a visual story without words to communicate, pictures take its place. Each artist has a different story so, no two Aboriginal artworks are ever the same, and it comes as no surprise that there are so many varieties of techniques.

New techniques and materials are constantly evolving to tell traditional stories and express culture by Aboriginal artists, including photography, metal sculptures and other contemporary media.

All aboriginal artwork tells a story. Most art is based on the artist’s individual journey, which may be about their parents, adoption, warriors or daily life chores such as fishing. In rarer cases, the art is reflective of their tribe or captures the heartache of the stolen generation.

5. Symbols and colours

Colours were traditionally sourced from natural earth ochres or clay in red, white and yellow with charcoal being used as black paint. Artists in the desert areas used these colours at first and in the 1980s when more women started painting, brighter colours were adopted reflecting the colours around them in the desert sunrises and sunsets, wildflowers, green landscapes after rain and bright blue skies.  Â The colours used in dot painting can be arbitrary as the artists are not necessarily trying to show you what things look like but are rather recounting a ‘story’.

6. U-shape

The symbols used in Aboriginal iconography are relatively simple but to tell a more complex story they are used in more elaborate combinations. 

One of the most common Aborigional symbol  is the U-shape, wich means person. For example: In a Water Dreaming, a U shape symbol is used for a man but if he is sitting next to a water hole, concentric circles would be incorporated and spiral lines showing running water. The artist is telling a story that the man by the waterhole “the waterman” is summoning rain to come.



Contact Us