More About the Exhibition
The origins of the contemporary Aboriginal painting movement can be traced largely to the remote desert community of Papunya in the Northern Territory. There, in the early 1970s, with the encouragement of a local Euro-Australian schoolteacher, a group of Aboriginal men began to paint images from their sacred narratives and ceremonial life, first on small boards and, later, on canvas for the art market. Following the success of Papunya, artists of both sexes in other desert communities, such as Yuendumu, Lajamanu, Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff), Walungurru (Kintore), and Utopia, started to paint. Typically they adopted—at least initially—the colorful, densely dotted style that is the hallmark of desert acrylic painting. At the same time painters from neighboring areas, such as the Kimberley in western Australia, began to produce works on canvas employing different regional styles.
Diverse in its imagery, virtually all Aboriginal art is united by the concept of the Dreaming, a term that refers collectively to the supernatural beings and events of the primordial creation period, when ancestral beings emerged from the featureless earth and created the landscape, humans, plants, and animals. The Dreaming remains an ongoing phenomenon, and its power endures at particular sites. While they often appear abstract to Western observers, most images in Aboriginal art represent aspects of the Dreaming—the landscape and its sacred history. At birth, each individual inherits rights to a specific ancestral homeland and the Dreaming stories associated
with it, which almost exclusively form the subject matter of his or her paintings. Although artists usually work within the broader stylistic conventions of their communities, many have developed distinctive styles that set their work apart from that of their contemporaries.