Damien Armstrong is the curator of an exhibit called Stars of the Desert that is up in Canberra. The show gave him the opportunity to discuss contemporary aborginal art with Australian Broadcasting:
“Culture evolves depending on the environment and Aboriginal art and Aboriginal culture has always been representations of our environment,” he said.
New mediums such as acrylic paints and canvas have added a new dimension for artists to explore and express themselves. Art forms such as ceramics, pottery and silk paintings have influenced and been incorporated into traditional art.
“We’ve adapted our art forms into these new mediums because there is a specific market for them,” he said. “These are contemporary art forms but we put our own style to them.
“On the walls we have artworks that are 100 per cent absolutely traditional, painted in traditional colours by artists that speak their own language, live in their own culture almost exclusively, from Arnhem Land and from the desert.
“We also have artists who take the contemporary spin on it, contemporary colours and storylines.” Armstrong says the use of modern styles still allows for the passing on traditional tribal knowledge.
Paintings on display include works by Wallimpirnga and Thomas Tjapaltjarri, brothers who were part of a group known as the ‘last of the nomads’ and wandered from the desert to encounter white people for the first time in 1984.
“These art forms are absolutely, 100 per cent not influenced by European art in any way,” he said. “When the Tjapaltjarri first wandered in out of the desert and met white people and they started painting, they’d never watched a television or perused an art gallery.”
Armstrong says the exhibition includes an extremely diverse collection of art from traditional to contemporary. “Aboriginal art is not one thing, Aboriginal people are not one people, we are many different tribes, each with their own different styles form Western desert to Arnhem Land and everything in between,” he said.
Exhibition Spans Evolution of Aborginal Art Styles (ABC.net.au)