Indigenous art in Australia has a rich and varied history, with different corners of the country demonstrating very different forms and styles. These styles were used to depict mesmerising scenes from the Dreamtime, as well as wonderful examples of animals and humans. As there are a few examples of these styles, it can be hard to know what they’re called, where they originate from, and what the intention of the artist was at the time. To help give you a better idea of how art in Australia existed thousands of years ago, in this article, we take a closer look at the most significant styles of indigenous Australian art.
Aboriginal rock art
There are quite a few iconic aboriginal art symbols, but the significance of these styles is often misunderstood or not known at all. Perhaps the most prevalent medium associated with Aboriginal art is rock art, which is particularly true of older cultures. In Australia’s north, a type of art style that we now refer to as x-ray art was developed. This art style depicted animals and humans in a kind of skeleton-like form, which is why this style is so commonly referred to as x-ray art. This style actually developed based on the observed remains of bodies, whether it be animal or human, which is why bone figures are shown in the traditional art. Perhaps the most commonly known form of Indigenous art is dot painting, which was also commonly applied on rocks. Typically found in the deserts of Central and Western Australia, it was on these surfaces that dot patterns were used to tell stories. In addition to dots, hands and stencils were used with paint to create an assortment of different figures, but it wasn’t just paint that was used – rock engraving was also common, where stories and figures were carved directly into rocks instead of paint being used.
Other Aboriginal art forms
There are quite a few more examples of Aboriginal art forms that might not be as well known as those related to painting. The first of these is wood carvings, which were typically made with sharp stones, wire, and fire applied to a piece of wood. Carved wood pieces were traditionally used to tell stories and were also exchanged. Weaving was also common, with baskets being perhaps the most popular object that was weaved by Indigenous Australians. Although there is certainly a sense of practicality involved, there was also a lot of room for artistic flair to be introduced in weaving. Finally, string art was a popular art-form that involved images and artwork being created with the careful use of strings. This was achieved by Indigenous Australians working the string with their fingers into diverse shapes and designs, although for the most part these designs were only created temporarily.
Aboriginal art variety
As you might have gathered, there are many forms of Aboriginal art, and we’ve only just scratched the surface! Because different tribes applied art in different ways, different areas of the country produced very different styles, so it’s definitely worth doing some exploring yourself to see where your favourite painting style was developed from. If you find something you like, supporting contemporary Indigenous artists is also a great idea, so make sure you buy a piece today!