Welcome to the Artlandish Aboriginal Art Gallery

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section

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How old is Aboriginal Art?

This question has been debated for many years. It is widely proclaimed that Aboriginal rock art is between 30,000 and 40,000 years old and possibly up to 50,000 years old!

How long have Aboriginals been in Australia?

Aboriginals are believed to have arrived in Australia around 60,0000 years ago. It is believed they made their way across from south east Asia and then sailed the small ocean distance and landed along the northern coast of Australia.

When did Aboriginal Artists start painting commercially?

Aboriginal Artists have been offering their extraordinary works since the 1930’s and possibly longer. Most of the artworks dating back to these times were completed on bark.

It is generally accepted that Aboriginals began painting on canvas in an organised manner in the early 1970’s when Geoffrey Bardon noticed the people at Papunya drawing images and stories in the sand. Bardon was instrumental in establishing the art centre at Papunya and the last great art movement began.

Q. Dear Sir/Madam, Could you please help me. I am trying to teach a couple of boys ages 13 and 11 in a little bit of world art. At the moment I have had the boys painting plates with their interpretation of Aboriginal Art. And at the same time I asked them to do some research of the art itself and write and essay. Could you please tell me if each colour used in the paintings has a meaning and representation. Thanking you in advance


The colours the Aboriginal artists use are indicative of the colours of their country at the different times of the day, month, season etc. For instance, pink denotes sunrise, dusky blue/grey is sunset, red is hot time, yellow is dry time, black and brown is wet time as a generic guide.

Could you possibly tell me what the colour black represents in aboriginal paintings...Thank you

In general black means wet. Black can also just be a feature – like the black lines in the yellow honey ants etc – but a black background normally means wet – or bad water. It can also mean night-time, no moon. The ochre artists from the Kimberley are more particular about colouring as they are pretty well landscape artists.

When Phyllis Thomas paints her famous “body paint” (Daiwal) style of artwork, its representative of the colour of her body.

When she paints her Rainmaker Birds (see below) it represents wet or water

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As you can see there are a number of different meanings for the colour black with water being a fairly common but certainly not exclusive meaning.

What do the shapes and symbols mean in Aboriginal Art?

Please reference the diagram below explaining the meaning of the symbols used in Aboriginal art, in particular the works painted by the desert artists in the area around Alice Springs.


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