Aboriginal Prints Portray Sacred Stories `New Tracks - Old Land,' an Exhibition of Works by Native Australians, Depicts Their Tradition-Rich Culture - from Religion to Folklore to Dreams

Article excerpt

TRADITIONAL Australian Aboriginal art is usually thought of in terms of bark painting, rock art, sculpture, weaving, and ceremonial tools.

In recent times, however, printmaking has become a contemporary means of expression for native Australians, largely because of increased access to arts education and facilities.

"New Tracks - Old Land" is an exhibition currently at the Portland Art Museum (Portland, Ore.) that showcases 80 contemporary limited-edition prints by 30 Australian Aboriginal artists.

Lithographs, linocuts, etchings, screenprints, and woodblock prints depict various aspects of Aboriginal culture - from contemporary life, religion, and political concerns to nature, folklore, and "dreamtime" tales handed down from generation to generation.

The featured artists range from jet-setting Aborigines who, for example, travel to Paris to exhibit and teach or give lectures at universities, to those who currently live on Aboriginal homeland and are directly connected to their culture.

The prints in "New Tracks - Old Land" are striking in their patterns and depictions. Some are black-and-white while others employ brilliant color.

The exhibit, organized by the Aboriginal Arts Management Association in Sydney and the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, is considered the largest show of prints by native Australians ever shown in the United States.

For the viewer, the art serves as a window into traditional and contemporary Aboriginal culture: Stories of creation, sacred places, land-rights struggles, visits to metropolitan cities.

The exhibit is significant for several reasons, explains Jeffrey Keough, director of exhibitions at Massachusetts College of Art and one of the organizers of the exhibit. …