Close to Home – Australian Indigenous Art


Being an Aussie I thought I’d start close to home.

WARNING:  Fellow Aussies, educated art addicts and the politically correct may find the following “cringe-worthy”…

I will freely admit that I don’t know too much about Aboriginal art or the culture it comes from.  When I think of Aboriginal art the first thing that springs to mind is an ochre-coloured base with lots of white dots…  This didn’t appeal to me as a genre.   For starters I don’t really like the colour ochre – it makes me feel hot and thirsty, the feeling of near-death dehydration you get when you first awake on “the day after the big night before”.  Sure, it looks great on Uluru (Ayers Rock for those culturally challenged) but mostly I prefer cooler colours.

I know, I know – totally politically incorrect right?!  And yes, it is appalling I don’t know more about the original owners and occupants of my country.  But don’t give up on me yet, I hope to redeem myself.

It took my friend Anna, a native Bavarian and visitor to Australia, to educate me.

In December 2008 Anna visited Alice Springs and came across “street artists” in Todd Mall.  It was here she met Margaret Price and Rayleen Pula Price, mother and daughter.

The women educated Anna on their specific art.  Apparently each traditional Aboriginal artist usually paints in a single style on his or her subject – so Margaret would have her own style which she would repeat and repeat, never crossing over into Rayleen’s style and vice versa.

Rayleen’s artwork depicts her “dreaming” of Bush Seeds and Bush Medicine Leaves.

What I love about all of these paintings is the repetition and rhythm.  I am fascinated by repetition, I find it soothing.  Not just to look at but to listen to, feel or live by.  Consider the repetitious nature of waves breaking on a shore, a warm steady heart beat, your favourite song.  Repetition and rhythm provides me with familiarity, which in turn, provides comfort in certainty.  Even a regular routine that can be soothing.  Sure, after a while repeating the same activity may get boring but then you change it and repeat the new one some more (I think it’s the control freak in me coming out).  That’s my take on it anyway.

I also love the soft, flowing lines.  It appears very natural and is comfortable to look at – sort of like watching fish swim in an aquarium on a hot day, it’s almost hypnotic.

I envy the ability of the artist too as I don’t believe I’d know where to start to even think about creating something like this.  The blend of colours, the simplicity but perfection of each and every brush stroke seems supernatural to me.  While I do envy the work and the ability/skill required to create it, part of me is glad I can stand back and be envious, appreciative and impressed by it.  It would be a dull world if we all had the same talent.

While I adore all of the paintings, this green one is my favourite.

Artist: Rayleen Pula Price

Green is my all time favourite colour.   It’s cool, soothing and natural – a cool, visual antidote to the dehydrated ochre.  It seems to have a greater depth, if I stare long enough it feels like I could get lost in it.  I imagine falling into it would be like falling into soft, cool, springy grass.

If you like these and want to get some of your own, Anna tells me you can find a whole heap of registered Aboriginal artists selling their paintings in Alice Spring’s Todd Mall.  Or try visiting here to find and purchase Rayleen’s (and other artists) work.

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4 thoughts on “Close to Home – Australian Indigenous Art

  1. I love these. I think there is something lovely about aboriginal and native art (that is maybe less technically sound but full of feeling) from many countries that classical art just doesn’t quite have…

  2. Hi Cabecada, thanks for following and commenting 🙂 I am interested to know a little more about the “technically sound” aspect of your comment, would you mind elaborating?

    • Hmm, well I always feel like there is a lot of art in art museums and galleries that is of such a high quality in terms of the technical skill involved, but a lot of it seems kind of boring. I can appreciate all that realism and detail and the skill that went into it, but I prefer the energy and feeling I get from, say, traditional African arts that could lack some of that technical skill. 🙂 But that’s the great thing about art, isn’t it, that everybody can get something different from it!

      • Gotcha, and yes I totally agree with you! Like some art is “over-schooled” (particularly in galleries etc) where as some of the indigenous art is more “natural” or from the heart or something. I get what you’re saying 🙂

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