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Historically Australian Indigenous Art Is Often Politically or Spiritually Motivated Essay

Historically Australian art is often politically or spiritually motivated. This statement is proved by a number of indigenous Australian artists including, Nellie Nakamarra Marks, who uses traditional techniques and motives to relay her spirituality, and Tony Albert, who recontextualises mainstream items, to create a postmodern collection, challenging the idea of stereotypical representations in mainstream culture. All spiritual beliefs in Aboriginal culture relate back to the idea of creation and dreaming.

The dreaming is the ongoing cultural and spiritual progression that informs identity and knowledge, which is expressed through traditional indigenous art. This reflects a spiritual connection to the land, which is represented by signs and symbols as well as other various techniques, which are unique to traditional indigenous art. Signs and symbols can represent a particular location, object or landmark, or a particular story or totem that would be specific to a particular tribe, corroboree or dreamtime story.

In traditional indigenous artworks, there is no perspective or fixed vanishing points for landscape artworks because indigenous Australians do not see their environment as a landscape, but their particular world and universe. They create a concept of place by using signs and symbols to create a map-like artwork, which represents their particular ‘world’ and universe. Essentially, traditional indigenous Australian artists are painting their spirituality, by expressing their connection to the land through signs, symbols and their world.

Nellie Nakamarra Marks is a traditional indigenous artist, from the east of Kintore in the Northern Territory. In her work Kalipinypa, there is no set pattern and everything is connected which suggests her spiritualty and connection with the land. Her use of the traditional form of dot painting for her particular area of the Central Desert Region symbolises her world as she sees it, and how she heard about it through stories.

In the middle of the right hand side there is lack of colour, which could symbolise a particular place that has particular spiritual significance. The dark shapes also look like leaves, which could represent the end of season and the coming of autumn, which is supported by the deep, vibrant colours in the painting. The colours also represent her region and place in Australia. The many different varieties of the same shapes could symbolise diversity within their own tribe, as well as the different shapes and movements of the land.

The purpose of this artwork is to educate and pass on a particular story to younger generations. Postmodern art challenges mainstream ideas, which usually creates a political or social statement about modern society. Contemporary indigenous art in particular would be classified as postmodern because the artists are communicating their feelings and thoughts about certain aspects of society in modern Australia, which in turn, challenges some pre conceived notions about indigenous Australians in today’s society.

These particular works by Tony Albert are postmodern, because he recontextualises items from recent history, that were used to create an unrealistic connection between White Australia and indigenous Australia in the 50’s and 60’s, to challenge history, both politically and socially. Tony Albert’s collection recycles kitsch black velvet paintings produced in Australia in the 1950’s and 1960’s. These velvet paintings were very popular in the last fifty years as home decorations, and like many objects from this period, they were characterized by their depictions of Aboriginal people as simple folk.

These ornaments enabled white Australians of the time to have a distant and unrealistic connection to indigenous people. Albert recontextualises these paintings by introducing stenciled slogans to the paintings to create a complex and identifiable character. He uses the languages of politics and pop culture to reconnect the artworks with modern Australia and therefore reality. These slogans reclaim the faces of the aboriginals, transferring them from helpless and cute, to bold and complex, which asserts a modern identity and sense of self.

This makes the characters more personal, which then creates a connection between the viewer and the subject that is mimicked throughout the collection. The slogans are derived from pop songs, nursery rhymes, advertising, political speeches and life stories, which has launched these velvet paintings into a new identity, which enables the viewer to connect with the characters beyond a stereotyped context.

The generic and common velvet paintings have become empowered and personalized, asserting a new sense of self, which makes this collection truly compelling. This collection by Tony Albert, addresses the issue of stereotypical representations of indigenous Australians in mainstream culture. He challenges this present and historic issue of cultural alienation and displacement experienced by Indigenous Australians by appropriating slogans and recontextualising them to create a sense of lost identity and estrangement.

Through the use of many different mediums, Aboriginal artists are motivated by their spirituality or political standpoint to produce art. This is shown by Nellie Nakamarra Marks, who is motivated by her connection to the land and her spirituality, and Tony Albert, who was trying to communicate the stereotypical views of indigenous Australians in mainstream culture. Kalipinypa – NELLIE NAKAMARRA MARKS Acrylic on linen, 90? 90cm Kalipinypa – NELLIE NAKAMARRA MARKS Acrylic on linen, 90? 90cm.


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