Yabbering with Anzus

Yabbering with Anzus 2

When I founded the Anzus Aboriginal Art Gallery in Palo Alto, California in 2003, my mission was then and still is, to display and promote Australian indigenous art to American art lovers. As the owner of a specialist gallery I am often assumed to be an expert in the field and as a result I often get asked questions. Sometimes I can even answer them. Recently I received a letter from an art lover who told me that he had had to defend Contemporary Aboriginal Art (dot painting) from a critic who said that it was not authentic aboriginal art because it was not Traditional Aboriginal Art.

By "not authentic" the critic meant that contemporary paintings did not follow traditional aboriginal art forms. Traditional art however follows many forms that range from carving of wood and stone, weaving, painting on cave walls and bark, using natural earth pigments mixed with a variety of substances. Traditional aboriginal art is the worlds oldest continuing art form and dates back more than 30,000 years. Contemporary art for the most part is painted on canvas using acrylic paint, follows diverse styles and dates back to 1971. It began in that year at the school in the Papunya aboriginal community.

Previously there had been examples of aborigines painting in the western style and using western materials. Examples include William Barak's drawings in the nineteenth century and Albert Namatjira's beautiful watercolors from the mid twentieth century.

In 1971, at Papunya, north west of Alice Springs in the Northern territory, school teacher Geoffrey Barden provided some students with some acrylic paint. At first they painted on walls and the doors and then on canvas, boards and anything they could get their hands on. The paintings did not follow western styles, but instead followed the stories and spirituality in the method of their traditional art. A group of twenty of these young men went on to form the Papunta-Tula art movement which continues today.

It was not until the 1980s that the movement spread to other aboriginal communities located around Alice Springs. By the 1990s, the art movement had spread around the whole of Australia. The different aboriginal language groups each painting their own story in their own style. You can see these various styles on my website at www.aboriginalartgalleries.com and ask any questions you may have.