An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of art & life ...

An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of life ... or just ramblings from the mind of a working Mum with far too little time to think!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Indigenous Inspiration

An Aboriginal dot painting from my private collection

I love the exquisite simplicity of Australian indigenous art and the unabashed use of vibrant colour. I love the history, the mystery, the sacred stories, and the secrets that are interwoven into the canvases along with the paint.

Also from my private collection

I especially love the connection indigenous art has with the land, the animals and the people and I am greatly inspired by these artists to try to reflect some of that passion into my own work. Indigenous artworks are suffused with strong swirls of colour or hundreds upon hundreds of vibrant dots, capturing the essence of Australia as seen in the vast red landscapes, the deep blue skies, the stark mangroves, the miles of sandy beaches, the endless turquoise oceans, and the vivid flames of bush fires.

Blooming Kangaroo Paw

Traditionally, Aboriginal people used art as part of their cultural practices and their artworks were created in non-permanent forms such as sand paintings or skin decorations. Their art was based on stories and sacred dreamings that told of the journeys and the actions of the ancestral beings who created the natural world.

Dreaming Skies

The dreamings and sacred stories carried important knowledge, cultural values and belief systems, linking the past and the present, the people and the land, and they were incorporated into the art to prevent them from being lost to future generations. Aboriginal people believe that those who lose the dreaming are themselves lost and they strive to maintain that link from ancient times to today, creating a rich and vibrant cultural heritage for those still to come.

Ghost Gums

Once world interest in Australian indigenous art ignited, aboriginals were encouraged to make their art more permanent by utilising the mediums of canvas, board and bark, and replacing ochres with water-colours and acrylic paints. Traditional artists decorated bodies of dancers with ochre paints at ceremonies and these ancestral markings, together with other symbolic patterns learned from the elders, are strong elements in indigenous art today.

Lily Patterns

Many modern artworks also illuminate contemporary problems and challenges facing the indigenous communities in Australia. Themes such as domestic violence, alcohol abuse, education, justice and the breakdown of traditional value systems are reflected in the art.

Coral Patterns ~ Great Barrier Reef

I purchased my first indigenous painting around 15 years ago while on a holiday in the town of Cairns, almost at the top of Australia. Exploring the town late one Sunday afternoon, we stumbled upon a tiny gallery full of indigenous art and I was blown away by the boldness and the vibrancy of the art.

Dots by Polly Napangardi Watson

The piece that really captivated me was a simple canvas dominated by blue and pink dots, created by an artist whose distinctive paintings have since sold all over the world - Polly Napangardi Watson. It is only a small painting, but it is spectacular! Somehow the dots offer a sense of movement and rhythm that leaps off the canvas with so much energy and life, much like the traditional rituals that that I imagine inspired the piece.

The colours of Australia

Australia is an incredibly beautiful land of rich, vivid colours, amazing animals and spectacular native flora, the essence of which is captured so perfectly in our indigenous art.

Blood Red Kangaroo Paw

Leaf Art

The Yarra River at dusk ~ Melbourne

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