Dots, symbols from rituals and landscapes you’d never imagine, all through paintings or sculpture, are just some of the amazing aspects of Aboriginal art.
When browsing through a contemporary art exhibition, you may ask yourself how the artist did such a good job with the gradient of colors or which type of pencil he used for so much detail, nevertheless, a new interest could take place way before pencils and in a less modernized community whose art is still as fragrant as ours : the Aboriginal Australian peoples. The real question is how do they represent with such creativity and modernity, the spirits and beliefs of their ancestors all with a touch of their own culture ?
So many great Aboriginal artists have done some amazing work such as Albert Namatjira who was and is considered one of the greatest and most influential Australian artists. Even though there is some incredibly interesting art history behind many Aboriginal artist personas, let us concentrate on the top 9 Famous Aboriginal Australian artists alive today.
Gabriella Possum Nungurrayi
Gabriella Possum Nungurrayi is the oldest daughter of Clifford Possum Nungurrayi, one of the most famous Aboriginal artists. Gabriella stays loyal through her art all with modernity. This artist often symbolizes the social role that women are given in Aboriginal tribes. Different rites with color, music, body painting all referring to the well-being of nature, decent food, and fertility.
David Miller spent his childhood moving from landscape to desert and new horizons very often and by foot with his family. Witnessing rituals, dances, and many various Aboriginal cultures like his own, he uses it as inspiration through his art when he discovers the wonders of paint in 2005 in an art program. After a few years he practices art professionally and honors his parents and ancestors through his paint brush.
Thomas and Walala Tjapaltjarri,
Thomas and Walala Tjapaltjarri, were in 1964 in Wilkinkarra, they spent most of their childhood and young adult life living nude, moving from one point to another by foot and were armed with boomerangs and spears. They were drawn to art and painting in 1987 and started representing different stories, myths and tales well know and shared between the Aboriginal Australian tribes. They may be brothers illustrating the same history, nevertheless their techniques and methods are quite different. Thomas uses a more traditional look on his pas representing symbols painted on bodies, sculptures, shields, and other historical symbols. On the other hand, Walala has a more modern approach through his art by painting precise and abstract landscapes with the detailed paths his ancestors took.
Phyllis Thomas was born in the mid 2Oth century and is known to have founded the Rugan community with her husband. While she concentrates on her art and evokes nature and various ecosystems, her husband teaches in an art school focusing on the techniques and inspirations of art and creativity in Aboriginal cultures such as sculpture, danse and painting.
Abie Loy Kemarre
Abie Loy Kemarre was inspired to start painting thanks to her grandmother who taught and motivated her. She was born in a family of renowned artists who travelled and painted together. Abie’s work is composed of different themes and dreams. A play on color and shapes on one hand contemporary but on the other a touch of her ancestors’ spirits as inspiration.
Tjawina Porter Nampitjinpa
Tjawina Porter Nampitjinpa is known for her talents in traditional basket weaving as well as for her paintings. She illustrates the dreams her parents had and shared but never got to accomplish such as new places and lands to discover.
Debbie Brown Napaljarri
Debbie Brown Napaljarri was born in a small, isolated community called Nyirripi in Australia. After a few years of college and studying in Alice Springs, Debbie Brown comes home to help in a medical center for older people. Creative and initiated to art since an early age, she started collaborating in 2006 with an art center. In her own artwork she paints the “Dreamwork” her father started to imagine in her childhood.
Josie Kunoth Petyarre
Josie Kunoth Petyarre was born in a family of renowned artist in central Australia. Following the art project “Utopia: A picture story,” she has designed eighty-eight pieces of art. Always staying in symbolic art, Josie starts to sculpt, with her husband, different animals and characters often found in rituals. She also represents through her various works of art “the Dreamtime” as explained earlier.
Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri is from Pintupi, the same small community as Debbie Brown. After gaining contact with civilization, his interest in art grows and he can finally develop it in good circumstances with the tools he desires. Over the years he modernizes his techniques while keeping a good grasp on the inspiration he has from his ancestors through his landscapes and symbols or themes such and the “Dreamtime.”
Some history to guide you through the works of these amazing Aboriginal artists.
Across the world in about seventy countries, up to 370 million people identify as Indigenous. Being ‘Indigenous,’ according to international law, refers to a person whose ancestors were Indigenous and might have lived on certain lands before new people arrived and became dominant. Amongst the 5,000 diverse groups of people identifying as Indigenous with over 4,000 languages spoken, lies the oldest continuous culture on the planet: the Indigenous Peoples of Australia. To this day, according to the Australian government, ‘Aboriginal Australians’ refers to a person whose ancestors were Indigenous Australians, which identifies as an Indigenous person and finally who is recognized as is by an Indigenous community.
The ancestors of today’s Aboriginal Australian peoples came from Southeast Asia and migrated by sea (during the Pleistocene geological epoch: from 2,580,000 to 11,700 years ago) to reach the continent of Australia. Over time, the sea levels rose, and the Indigenous peoples having migrated there became increasingly isolated on the Australian mainland and its nearby islands. They have lived over tens of thousands of years on the Australian continent through its many developments by adapting and learning to survive. Across the Australian continent exists distinct groups having each its own language, habits, and culture. It is known that most Aboriginal people speak the English language with some additional Aboriginal phrases and words being used to create what is called the ‘Australian Aboriginal English.’
Aboriginal art is linked to an idea of reconnecting to the land and spirits of their ancestors. In Aboriginal art, we may find diverse ways used such as painting on various surfaces (leaves, clothes, body,), rock and wood carving, sculpting, ceremonial clothing. Aboriginal art on canvas and board began only 50 years ago which gave birth to the Aboriginal art movement. Many characteristics differentiate Aboriginal art; it is often based on ancient stories and symbols representing ‘the Dreamtime’ which is the period when Indigenous people believe the world was created. Having no written language, they based their art on traditional symbols to communicate, especially to inform new generations on their ancestors and history.