"An Introduction to Aboriginal Art."
Traditional Aboriginal Art (or Indigenous Art) dates back thousands of years. Rock art found in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia is estimated to be 40,000 years old. The early indigenous people of Australia used symbols and motifs to express themselves and communicate amongst their own tribes and sometimes with other tribes through rock paintings and engravings, bark paintings, sand art, body painting and scarring. Their art was and still is sacred and reflects spiritual and religious beliefs as well as stories, meaningful events and day to day life. All of their artwork was of significance in the past and still is in the present.
Their artistic instruments were their surroundings. Ochre pigments (coloured rock containing iron oxide) were the primary source of paint, creating earthy colours in yellows, oranges and reds. They also used charcoal, clay, blood and fat to mix up their artistic concoctions which they used to make their mark in their environment and tribal territory.
Their paint brushes were sticks crushed at the ends, hair brushes, fingers, hands and even their mouths were used to blow a spray of paint over stencils, such as hand paintings commonly seen today in national parks.
In the days of the early Aboriginals their art was both primitive and ingenious. They used what they had to mimic nature, amuse themselves and teach their children during the sheltered periods of the “wet season,” leaving stories, beliefs and a historical timeline behind for generations to come. Rock art is generally found in caves or on sheltered rock faces where it is most protected from the elements of wind, rain and erosion. Aboriginals were smart people in primitive times.
Sand art in the Australian deserts didn’t last long and was usually created when the conditions where calm, to avoid wind and rain destroying it too soon. They told meaningful stories, using sticks to create dots and lines, small rocks or pebbles and bits and pieces of plantlife.
Aboriginal people all lived similar lifestyles, however there were many different tribes, speaking unique languages and believing in their own legends, which were expressed through their artwork. Thus, there are many different styles of artwork belonging to various groups or tribes which differ throughout the regions of Australia, particularly the Kimberly of Western Australia, the Northern Territory’s Arnhem Land, Central Australia and outback Queensland. Subject matter includes mythical and spiritual beings, human beings and animals of all sorts such as fish, birds, lizards and snakes. Some paintings feature the internal organs of humans and animals and this is known as x-ray art. They also portrayed the arrival of European ships from overseas and objects foreign to them which were carried by the “settlers,” being weapons and tools such as guns and axes.
Today modern day Aboriginals hold their history and tradition close to their hearts. They are still very artistic and many of them have found their calling recreating artworks and creating their own stories on canvas. The concepts are the same, however they have modern day tools to create spectacular pieces so loved by tourists, art collectors and anyone interested in Aboriginal art. Today many Aboriginal artists use acrylic paints and canvas to create masterpieces unique to their culture.