5 Aboriginal Art Facts

6. Aboriginal art on canvas and board only began 40 years ago: Traditionally, the paintings we now see on canvas, were scratched or drawn on rock walls, used in body paint or on ceremonial articles and importantly, drawn in sand or dirt accompanied by the song or story. In 1971, Geoffrey Bardon a school teacher working with Aboriginal children in Papunya, noticed the Aboriginal men, while telling stories to others, were drawing symbols in the sand. He encouraged them to put these stories down on board and canvas, and there began the famous Aboriginal art movement. It was a major leap for indigenous people to begin painting their stories on western rectangular shaped surfaces – a totally foreign concept in their world. Since then, Australian Aboriginal Art has been tagged the most exciting contemporary art form of the 20th Century.
7. Dots were used to hide secret information: Dot painting in the main, began when the Aboriginal people became concerned that white man would be able to see and understand their sacred and private knowledge. The dots (sometimes called 'over-dotting') were used to obscure the secret iconography (symbols) underneath. The later works of Johnny Warangkula are an excellent example of this: In his final years, Johnny worked to record his important stories in a powerful body of work, all of which are obscured by a wild and magnificent dotting technique.
8. Aboriginal artworks can qualify for both galleries and museums: The Australian Aboriginal is the longest surviving (so we could say 'most successful') culture the world has seen, and their culture is complex and centred on long term survival in a hostile environment. It is rich in spiritual teachings, knowledge, and cultural behaviour, as well as the practical skills and knowledge required to survive. Because Aboriginal Art reflects the earliest period of this ancient culture, it has both artistic and anthropological merit. Works painted even in recent times can qualify equally for a place in a modern art gallery or a museum. This is one of the reasons it is so special and important.
9. The highest priced Aboriginal Artworks so far were painted by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri for the work 'Warlugulong' which sold in 2007 to the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) for a tidy sum of $2.4 million dollars. The record for an indigenous artwork painted by a woman, was achieved by Emily Kame Kngwarreye's work 'Earth's Creation' also sold in 2007 to a private buyer for $1.056 million.
10. Aboriginal art has fostered cultural revival in an extremely good way for the Indigenous people. Coming out of the dark ages of prejudice and misunderstanding on the part of the 'whitefeller', our love of Indigenous art, and our willingness to pay for it, has given Australia's Aboriginal people a greater degree of self respect and standing and an important source of income. As the older artists teach the young, it has revitalised young Indigenous people's appreciation and knowledge of their ancient culture and drawn them back to it in a way that would probably not have happened otherwise. On the other side of the coin, westerners marvel at the beauty and spirituality of Aboriginal art - their interest and respect for the Aboriginal people has transcended the old stereotypes to build stronger bridges of understanding.
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