The History Behind The Aboriginal Artwork

Despite the fact that Australian Aboriginals have been utilising ochres for tens of thousands of years as face paint, on wood and rocks, the first artworks were not created until the 1930s.

Instead of ochre or dot art, these were painted in watercolour at the Hermannsburg Mission in Alice Springs.

They depicted sceneries in the desert. Albert Namatjira, the most famous of the earliest aboriginal watercolour painters, held the first exhibition in 1937. Adelaide hosted his exhibition. You can find various aboriginal art for sale in many Australian art galleries.

Artists mostly used watercolours until the early 1970s. Non-indigenous lovers of ochre and bark paintings began to appear, and in 1948, an art and craft centre was established at Ernabella’s mission.

Aboriginals used to paint on rock walls, ceremonial objects, as body paint, and, most importantly, in dirt or sand with songs or stories. Paintings on canvas and board that we see now date back only 50 years.

Aboriginal Art in a Variety of Styles

The character and style that Aboriginal art has varies based on the region and language spoken by the artist. The majority of modern art can be identified by the community in which it was developed.

In Arnhem Land and east Kimberley, the usage of ochre paints is evident. Aboriginal art materials (colours) were originally sourced from the surrounding area. Colours such as white, yellow, red, and black were created from charcoal using ochre or iron clay pigments.

Smokey greys, sage greens, and saltbush mauves were quickly added to the palette.

More Aboriginal painters who were women began to arise during the mid-1980s, and a larger spectrum of modern colours began to be used, and also vibrant desert paintings started to appear.

Many communities continue to define themselves by their use of colour; Papunya Tula, a member of the western desert art movement, is noted for its use of gentle earth colours, whilst many Western Desert Communities like vivid primary colours.

Even within regions, the styles vary greatly, and there is no hard and fast rule, as evidenced by many of Papunya’s artworks that do not necessarily follow this idea.

Other artistic variations are more focused on a certain community. Again, styles can vary greatly within communities, though many people become “known” for a particular kind of art.

A common style used by artists who paint from above. Many Indigenous painters picture themselves flying above the ground (country), viewing both natural and also metaphysical patterns or markings.

This distinct style is highly popular, and it has resulted in some wonderful masterpieces. These maps reflect knowledge of water sources and bush tucker areas.

The spirit put down songlines or dream tracks in the Creation period. The artist also includes ancestors in his work. What is known as the ‘hunter-gatherer’ community is characterised by these bird’s eye views.

They keep a watchful eye on the earth’s surface for signs of life, to track animals, and to recognise recent happenings.


In many respects, Aboriginal art has aided in the resurgence of their culture. Westerners’ prejudices and misunderstandings have been significantly reduced as a result of it.

The enthusiasm for Indigenous art and willingness to pay for it has aided Aboriginal people financially while also providing them with a sense of respect, status, and confidence.

Through the lessons of the elders, it has revitalised young Aboriginals’ appreciation and understanding of their culture. Westerners love Aboriginal art for its extraordinary beauty and purpose, which has transformed people’s relationships and helped develop deeper understanding bridges.

Hundreds of isolated communities around Australia, as well as metropolitan Aboriginal artists, are now producing a lot of Aboriginal art.

These organisations account for the majority of the aboriginal art for sale in galleries and museums across the country.

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