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Artist biographiesArtist Biographies





Between 5000 and 7000 Aboriginal people are estimated to be actively occupied regular making of art or craft. We can provide you with short biographies of only a few of these people, including some of the artists better known in the Western world and whose work we present to you through our Web site. Many of these artists have led amazingly varied lives, often in difficult circumstances.

Traditional Aboriginal ArtTraditional Aboriginal Art

Aboriginal peoples have been producing visual art for many thousands of years. It takes many forms - ancient engravings and rock art, designs in sand or on the body, exquisite fibre craft and wooden sculptures, bark paintings and more recently an explosion of brilliant contemporary painting.

Pole by Mickey Durrng, east Arnhem Land
with traditional design
Mickey Durrng

Rock ArtRock Art

Rock art
Most artworks in the distant past were made with materials that have not survived the passing of time. Rock art however has left rich and enduring evidence of human presence in Australia for at least 30 000 years. Aboriginal Australians believe they have been here since the Dreamtime.

Rock art at the Split Rock Gallery
near Laura, Far North Queensland

Art and Aboriginal SocietyArt and Aboriginal Society

Traditional Aboriginal societies vary greatly across Australia but all have social structures and systems that organise life and experience and explain the universe and the place of people in it. Art is part of these systems and the making of artworks by Aboriginal artists is almost always connected to Dreaming stories. The ownership of Dreaming stories is determined by complex social and kinship structures and paintings can only be produced by those who are acknowledged to have the right to do so. But this does not mean that artists are rigidly bound by convention in their expressions of these stories - as the great flowering of innovation in contemporary Aboriginal art shows.

Contemporary Aboriginal ArtContemporary Aboriginal Art

Since the early 1970s, Aboriginal contemporary art has grown rapidly and with amazing diversity and vigour - to the extent that critic Robert Hughes has described it as the 'last great art movement of the 20th Century'. The beginning of this growth can be traced to a school building in Papunya, a remote community in the Western Desert. The cultural pride expressed at Papunya has since spread widely in Aboriginal communities across Australia.

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