Ancient Influence: Australian High School Students' Response to Aboriginal Art
Makin, Gerald, School Arts
Australian aboriginal art, developed in isolation over many thousands of years, is the world's oldest extant art form. It has deep symbolic meaning for the aboriginal peoples, incorporating their traditional beliefs, customs and relationships with the land and its creatures.
At Ulverstone High School, located on the northern coast of Tasmania, Australia, we showed our ninth- and tenth-grade students pictures of many kinds of aboriginal art, representing a vast range of styles and modes of expression. We included traditional tribal works from the Northern Territories as well as works from the western deserts, where artists are exploring new styles and modern materials. Also included were paintings by aborigines who have been formally trained in art schools or through university fine art courses. It seemed a tall order to ask our students to paint pictures influenced by such an array of work; however, it proved to be both possible and highly rewarding.
In the first place, there is a quality running through all of this work, more easily sensed than defined, that is unquestionably aboriginal. Then, there are stylistic features that recur in various forms. …