The Australian deserts are a wealth of inspiration and ‘raw pigments’ to many artists. Artists have been inspired by the desert, outback and landscape of this vast continent literally since time began.
One of my loves when studying art was learning and understanding its origins. Much of what is taught to this day is based on European artists. Often indigenous artists from any content are not honoured for the influence they have on todays contemporary artists.
Australia has a rich art history that is unique and varied. With a long indigenous history as well as a colonial past, the country’s people have embraced the isolation and remoteness. This journey of national identity is reflected in Australia’s history of art.
30,000 YEARS AGO – ABORIGINAL ART
Australia’s indigenous peoples had been painting as an integral part of cultural identity and storytelling. In fact, the indigenous art dates as the oldest continuing tradition of art in the world. Aboriginal rock art can be found today throughout the continent, from Uluru and Kakadu in Australia’s desert centre, to the Grampians and even near Sydney. I had the fortune to sit with elders in Uluru as well as Arnhem land in the far north to discover and understand a little of the rich history of the story telling but also the creation of the pigments and materials used.
This art dates back at least 30,000 years, outdating the cave paintings in Lascaux, France, by several thousand years. There are common themes that emerge throughout the many different indigenous nations.
Aboriginal art incorporates concentric circles, arches and dots to symbolize important aspects of indigenous life. The art was originally painted or etched onto rock, bark, sand, and stone. Today, Aboriginal art has a strong influence on indigenous and non-indigenous artists alike. Well-known artists who have used elements of indigenous art include William Barak, Margaret Preston, and Doris Gingingara. And I too have been influenced by the first people of Australia.
Here is a number of paintings that I have done in recent times inspired from my time in the desert.