Aboriginal Art & Paintings


Australian Aboriginal art and paintings represent one of the most vital art forms in Australia today. The contemporary Aboriginal paintings using acrylic on canvas are the latest adaptation of an artistic tradition that can be traced uninterrupted and continuous for over forty thousand years, making it the oldest living art movement in existence.

Aboriginal art and Aboriginal paintings are an integral part of the culture of Aboriginal people as a way to maintain their laws, customs and belief systems. Art remains the ongoing document between the past and the present, between the ancient law and the interpretation of societal behaviour.

Aboriginal art functions as an expression of the rules of the group and the laws and information essential for survival. The right to paint a part of that law or information is inherited by an individual and are commonly known collectively as Aboriginal Dreamtime stories.

But within the strict rules of who can paint and what they can paint, the aboriginal artists from various aboriginal art regions of Central Australia add their interpretations.

As an example the Yarla (Bush Potato) or Bush Yam Dreaming is a predominant aboriginal food theme amongst the aboriginal women artists of Utopia aboriginal art. The aboriginal women interpret these aboriginal Dream-time stories in various ways. They may depict the root system, the yam seeds or the flowering stems and branches, but at all times they remain true to their Dreaming story. The transference of body painting designs to canvas in many of the Awelye (Women’s ceremony) paintings is another demonstration of the interpretative style of the aboriginal artists.

Central Art has paintings from the aboriginal artists from Kintore and Kiwirrkurra aboriginal art from the Western Desert who paint the Tingari Cycle – secret and sacred information relating to the journeys of ancestors as they formed the landscape. These paintings have several layers of meaning, the deepest layer only understood by the initiated men. In order to produce public art, the artists use lines and dotting as a device to protect the secretive and private elements. This multi level art is what gives the power of Aboriginal art and paintings.

Aboriginal art and paintings cannot be narrowly defined. For example, Central Desert and Western Desert art is sometimes referred to as ‘Aboriginal Dot paintings’ because of the use of iconography to represent certain things. Regardless of Aboriginal art region or language group, regardless of form or material and regardless of the differing dreamings, Aboriginal Art and Aboriginal paintings are always an expression of Aboriginal culture.

Aboriginal word glossary