Aboriginal Art Examples

There are a lot of different Aboriginal art examples.

There is an enormous variety of Aboriginal art in Australia. Styles vary geographically and depending on the age of the art. There is also a wide range of objects on which the art is found. Here are a few examples and descriptions on different types of indigenous art found in Australia.

Aboriginal Rock Painting
The oldest and most classic example on Australian Aboriginal art is rock art. It has survived thousands of years because rock is so durable. It has mostly survived in caves where it hasn’t been exposed to the weather. Most of the different styles, like naturalistic styles, including X-ray style have been painted on the rocks, but also the abstract dot paintings. Engravings have also been found on the rocks.

aboriginal art examples
  Aboriginal art examples by Jacqui via Flickr.com

Aboriginal Art Examples: Tree Carvings and Bark Paintings
Another popular material to paint on was wood, although the wooden examples we have today are not nearly as old because tree trunks and bark don’t last for as long as rock. Tree carvings and bark paintings were very popular. Carvings are found everywhere in Australia and bark painting is possibly the oldest type of indigenous art that became popular with collectors (in the 1940s). Just like rock art was often painted on rock shelter walls, bark paintings were often found on walls of wooden housing. Bark paintings were mostly found in Arnhem Land in Northern Territory but also in the Riverland in South Australia.

Art on Aboriginal Weapons, Tools and Instruments
Another lot of popular objects to decorate were instruments, tools and weapons such as didgeridoos, boomerangs, digging sticks, woomeras, spears and shields, clapping sticks, pottery, utensils, woven bags, textiles and baskets. The really old examples are by now in museums, but Australian shops nowadays sell a wide range of different Aboriginal objects painted by modern artists in traditional style.

The Famous Aboriginal Dot Paintings
The second most typical type of Aboriginal art examples is the famous dot paintings. This is a tradition many people think is relatively new because it only started in the 1970s. The only thing that is new about it however is the materials used (canvas and acrylic paints). The tradition of abstract painting using symbols to tell stories is as old as are the rock paintings. The modern dot painting developed from the old desert sand art which used exactly the same symbols on the sand and had a deep meaning for people who were familiar with the symbols. It had many different purposes like ceremonials, religious expression, teaching and storytelling.

Other Aboriginal Art Examples: Ochre Paintings
Not all the people changed to the colourful acrylic paints. Some of the Kimberley people started painting on canvas in the 1980s, but they hold onto their traditional ochre paints, despite the fact that their collecting and preparation is a time consuming work, and the results are not nearly as variable. There is just something about the old traditional ochre colours that range in yellow, orange, purple, red, brown, black and white.

Aboriginal Body Painting
And finally there was the body art. Just like Maoris and other Polynesian people, Aboriginal people had a tradition of tattoos and piercing. But they also used less permanent body decoration such as body painting and scaring. Scaring was used by men, while body painting was done on women and kids too. Body painting was more than just art – symbols that were used showed the person’s social status and other information. The body paintings used on religious ceremonies had symbols that had messages to ancestral and creation beings.


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