Aboriginal artist Shorty Jangala Robertson now on site

Three new artworks have been added on site.  This amazing desert artist, who lives and paints at Yuendumu lived the life as a child of a desert nomad and had next to no contact with white-man until the Conniston massacre.  Shorty's father took him and his family to Mt Theo to hide from being short, when his father died his mother took him to Yuendumu. more about this artist

Shorty's paintings have been exhibited both nationally and internationally at numerous exhibitions, he is one of the true icons of Australian Aboriginal art.

see paintings by this artist

Traditional Aboriginal Art

Aboriginal people traditionally painted on rock, on the body and in the sand  to tell the stories of their ancestors and their creation stories.

Aboriginal Rock Art

Aboriginal rock paintings appear on cave walls all over Australia.  The best-known are in the Kimberley area of West Australia.  This is probably the oldest art form.  The Wandjina, the ultimate creator,  hunting scenes and the Bradshaw figures or Mimi Spirits are found on many cave walls going back over 40,000 years.  This art form tells us about the activities, the spiritual beliefs and the social activity of the people of the time.


Aboriginal Bark Paintings

Painted on the bark harvested from trees.  The bark is first soaked in water and then smoked to create a flat shape for painting.  Bark was also used to make everything from  baskets to canoes.  Most bark works come from Arnhemland and northern West Australia.


Aboriginal Dot Paintings

These paintings come from the centre and western desert areas where dots, using acrylic paint are used to create and depict plants, animals, waterholes and land forms.  Originally done in ochre's the Aboriginal desert artists moved onto acrylic paints when they were introduced to them by the missionaries. 

Aboriginal Aerial paintings

 Many paintings of country are viewed from above, "bird's-eye view".  Painted by the artist sitting on the ground, they have been created with an intimate knowledge of land and tell the Dreamtime creation stories of the plants, animals, earth cycles and landscape.


Aboriginal Carvings and sculpture

Weapons such as spears for fishing, hunting and fighting were created out of stone and wood.  Coolamuns, baskets for food gathering and small animal and bird figures  were also carved out of the local wood.  Necklaces and other adornments worn for ceremony were made out of feathers and seeds.  Bush string to bind things together was made out of fibres from plants.  These fibres were also used to weave baskets.



The traditional wind instruments from North East Arnhemland were created out of a tree branch that was hollowed out by termites,  They were cut down and shaped to a long hollow instrument used in ceremony by the men.



Symbols were drawn in the sand as maps showing the young initiates where to find waterholes, food and teach about hunting and how to recognize animal tracks.

Some very elaborate sand paintings were used for ceremony, they took days and days to create and once the ceremony was over were destroyed.



Aboriginal Art Australia.....facts

Australian Aboriginal art is the oldest ongoing art tradition in the world, originally painted on the body for ceremony, on the walls of caves and on the ground.  The culture goes back over 40,000 years.

There are more than 100,000 individual rock art sites in caves around the country.

Australian Aboriginal art is now a world-wide art movement.

Before European occupation there were more than 200 different languages and over 600 dialects spoken, all but a handful of Aboriginal languages now exist, approx 20!

The Didgeridoo

originated in a small corner of north-east Arnhem Land and is the oldest wind instrument.  It is symbolic of Aboriginal music and is now played in many music bands by non indigineous people.  The didigeridoo or "yidaki" is made from tree branches that have been hollowed out by termites.

The term "Songlines"

refer to the pathways that criss-cross the country.  The ancient spirit ancestors followed these pathways when they created the people, animals and plant-life.  These ancient boundaries connected communities and created the pathway for the Aboriginal people to share their songs of creation.

Aboriginal people are connected to the land because of their spirit ancestors, they share this knowledge thru their ceremonies where painting, dance and music are all a part. 

The stories or lore is called The Dreamtime, these Dreamtime stories are celebrated and passed down generation to generation to ensure that Aboriginal culture is ongoing.

Aboriginal sand paintings

Sand paintings were created for significant ceremonies. 

The ceremony could be to depict the journey of a spiritual ancestor from a distant place;  as in the journey of the Tingari creator spirits, or to honor the coming of a season with abundant food, it might also be a survival map to teach the young initiates where food or waterholes are found.

The area for each sand painting is always carefully prepared, the ground is cleared and the surface is spread with termite-nest gravel mixed with water to a paste, when dried this hardens to give a firm surface.  The senior lawmen then create the Dreamtime story showing, land, animals, plants and spiritual symbols;  created with sand, ochres, leaves, feathers and sticks.  The designs can be a series of round circles, wavy lines, mounds or any of the many symbols that represent their Dreamtime journey and the land that it represents.

The majority of these sand paintings are restricted to senior lawmen.

Sand paintings can cover a huge area and can be as large as one hectare, they are always destroyed at the end of the ceremony.

Paintings on canvas that depict these ceremonies can often be over-painted to hide some of the sacred information of the Dreamtime story.  There can also be a repetition of pattern and design, the sacred designs hidden and only known to the initiated senior lawmen.

Aboriginal people living on the land, with the land ... body painting

Aboriginal children learn from the moment that they are born to rely on what nature has to offer them.  They learn about the plants and how they grown, when they are ripe to eat and how to prepare them for eating.  They learn how to hunt and fish and what is good eating.  They also learn to respect the forces of nature and how to survive in a very harsh land.

The change of the seasons, birth and death are all celebrated in sacred ceremonies of ritual, song and dance.  This is all part of their spiritual growth and belonging.  Paintings done on the bodies for these spiritual ceremonies form an important part of any gathering and men, women and children all have their own specific painting designs that adorn their bodies.

Today when we look at paintings done on canvas, bark and paper hanging in galleries most of these designs go back to the body paintings done for ceremonies many thousands of years ago.

Aboriginal Art from the Western Desert - Kintore and Kiwirrkura

These two Aboriginal settlements were originally established as outstations of Papunya. 

Many of the artists who had painted with the art teacher, Geoffrey Bardon, at Papunya then moved back to their own Pintupi homelands when these areas were established, creating another unique and wonderful area that is now known for it's own individual style of painting.

Aboriginal law men who had achieved the seniority to paint the Tingari Cycle now took their works to a whole new design level.  Complex patterns emerged that told the important and sacred story of the ancestral Tingari spirits

Walala and Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri were probably the last of the desert men to emerge after living their entire lives in traditional way in the desert.  Both these men are now artists painting their Dreamtime journeys and country with acrylic paints on canvas.

Senior Aboriginal lawmen such at Ronnie Tjampitjinpa, George Tjungurrayi, (known as Hairbrush as if you saw his hair you'd understand why) and Charlie Tjungurrayi paint with a huge knowledge of their country and with deep spiritual conviction.  Their works are sought by collectors worldwide and hang alongside many of the famous European and Amercian artists.  Known for their very contemporary "look" they are based on stories thousands of years old.  Works below LHS, Walala, RHS, Ronnie Tjampitjinpa


The Aboriginal women from Kintore and Kiwirrkura have also played an important role in the Aboriginal Art Movement, Nyruapayia Nampitjinpa, Naata Nungurrayi, Makinti Napangati and  Ningura Napurrula ,have left an indelible mark in the painting world.  LHS, Naata Nungurrayi and RHS Ningura Napurrula


Finding puts Aborigines among art's avant garde

  • by: Michaela Boland, National arts writer
  • From: The Australian
  • June 18, 2012 12:00AM




The remote site in Arnhem Land where the fragment of charcoal rock art, dated to 28,000 years ago, was found is also home to 1000-year-old art on the ceiling of a rock shelter.

Source: The Australian

ARCHAEOLOGISTS at a remote site in southwest Arnhem Land have made a discovery establishing early Australian Aborigines as among the most advanced people in human evolution.


A team led by Bruno David from Monash University has found and firmly dated a fragment of charcoal rock art to 28,000 years ago.  This makes it the oldest painting so far proven by carbon-dating in Australia and among some of the earliest evidence of human painting.


The discovery was made last June but has been dated only recently by experts from New Zealand's University of Waikato radiocarbon laboratory.  The piece was discovered by Bryce Barker from the University of Southern Queensland. "The discovery shows Australian Aboriginal people were responsible for some of the earliest examples of rock art on the planet," Professor Barker said.


France's Chauvet caves were carbon dated to 35,000 years ago. They were known as the world's oldest confirmed rock art sites until last week, when drawings in Spain's El Castillo caves were dated to 40,800 years.


The Bradshaw figurative paintings found throughout the Kimberley are well known internationally, Professor Barker said. "The Bradshaws are often talked about as being the oldest rock art in Australia but the oldest firm date for them is 16,000-17,000 years taken from a wasp nest covering the art."  Professor Barker said he was confident the Arnhem Land rock art would come to be seen as significant as the French and Spanish sites.  "Now we've got this and we are sure we'll push the age back (of Australian rock art) in the future."  "It puts Aboriginal people up there as among the most advanced people in human evolution," he said. "Some of the earliest achievements by modern humans were happening in this country."


Some scientists have said that Australian rock art went back 45,000 years but Professor Barker said that date is unproven. He said this new discovery has been "unequivocally dated".  "Some rock art has previously been dated older than 28,000 but there are problems with it (those examples)," he said.


Professor Barker and his colleagues have outlined their reasons for asserting the superiority of this new discovery in the next edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science.


The charcoal rock art fragment was excavated by Professor Barker from the Nawarla Gabarnmang rock art site at the headwaters of the Katherine River in the Northern Territory last June. The piece of granite was 60cm underground. It wasn't until October, when Professor Barker re-examined it in the laboratory, that he realised its significance.


"Rock art is very difficult to date because it's not organic, it's painted with minerals," he said.

The use of charcoal meant scientists could establish the date of its execution by carbon dating.

The Nawarla Gabarnmang site is only accessible by helicopter but it is providing a rich picture of the region's history. In October 2010 the oldest ground-edge tool was discovered there, prompting scientists to reconsider when the technique of grinding to make tools sharp began.

Exhibition at Treehouse Gallery, Birregurra

aboriginal art EXHIBITION in the otway's

The Treehouse Gallery specializes in exhibiting and promoting beautiful Australian fine timbers, paintings and artisan crafts from Australia's art and craft community.  Red Desert Dreamings Gallery and Treehouse Gallery are currently presenting a collection of Aboriginal artworks at the gallery.


Treehouse Gallery is part of an innovative idea for the Otway region.  It was borne out of the need for the Otway Agroforestry Network (OAN) to have an office and focal point. A wonderful space was found in a double-fronted bluestone shop in the main street of Birregurra. Deemed too good for just office space, OAN members Marianne and Nicky Stewart decided to set up the gallery to promote beautiful Australian timbers, forest products and sustainability. The Treehouse Gallery and OAN Office opened on May 29th 2010 in tune with the inaugural Otway Agroforestry Network Annual Farm Tree Expo in Birregurra.

Birregurra, in the foothills of the Otway Ranges, is a small picturesque township famed for gourmet foods and leisure shopping. It is in Victoria’s South-West in the Otways hinterland close to Lorne, Apollo Bay and Colac. It is within two hours drive from Melbourne on the A1 Hwy via the Geelong Bypass and Winchelsea.

Open Friday to Monday 11am-4.30pm , or by appointment.

55 Main Street, Birregurra, Victoria, Australia 3242

Aboriginal Art from Yuendemu


..."look we've got these colours all around us everywhere..." Paddy Stewart, one of the senior Aboriginal desert artists from Yuendumu said, he pointed to the sky "look blue and there's red there, these are the colours of our world you know"

Yuendumu Art is known for it's colourful art and wild flamboyant style.   The art centre at Yuendumu, Warlukurlangu Art, is covered with these paintings of Dreamtime stories.  Yuendumu's painting movement started around the mid 80's.  Anthropologists, Francoise Dussart and Meredith Morris were researching women's body designs and the painting techniques.  They supplied artist materials to the women, a group of approx 30, who painted and then sold their works done on coolamons, boards and beads to raise money to buy a four-wheel drive for the community.

The National Gallery of Australia bought a painting of the night sky for $3,000 and the money the artists got from this helped them to establish the cooperative Warlukurlangu Artists Association in 1986 with 90 members.  It now represents many hundreds of artists.

Yuendumu is approx 300km northwest of Alice Springs.  It was established in 1946 and until the 1960's was under the government assimilation policy.  In 1978 it was handed back to it's community of around 800 people. 

The art centre is the hub of the community and although many of the artists paint off-site, the centre is where they all come to enjoy each others company;  paint, laugh and talk.  During the school holidays the children come to paint with the elders and learn about their Dreamtime stories, an important part of their culture.  Many world-famous artists have come from this area; Judy Napangardi Watson, Maggie Napangardi Watson, Paddy Tjungarrayi, Dolly Daniels, Peggy Napurrula, Bessie Simms, Liddy Napanangka.

View some of the Warlukurlangu artists' work....

Judy Napangardi Watson

Dorothy Napangardi Robinson

Lily Kelly Napangardi

Symbols of the Desert


Traditionally the symbols that we now see on many paintings were drawn in the sand as a map that marked a waterhole, animal tracks or where good bush tucker could be found. 

These symbols also pointed the way to important and sacred sites.  

In the past many of these images were only to be viewed by those who had passed their initiation....after they were drawn in the sand and their meanings learnt by the young initiates they were destroyed.  When they were first painted onto canvas and board creating a permanent medium it caused a lot of problems.  Whilst it was a permanent record for posterity, it also contravened a very important part of Aboriginal law, these sacred symbols were not to be generally viewed.

The Dreamtime stories painted by the Aboriginal artists of today still have all the spiritual significance that they always have.  The same strict lores still exist and only those initiated to these Dreamtime stories are allowed to reproduce them in paint on canvas.

Many who view these paintings have no idea of the importance of what they are looking at.  The contemporary Aboriginal art works of today have evolved quite dramatically...there are a lot of patterns and dots, bold splashes of colour, subtle transformation of symbols;  but the important or significant symbols are still there, they are still part of the Dreamtime story and must be included, but they have been either hidden within the patterns or painted over to hide them altogether.  Only those initiated understand what to look for within these works. 

As other Aboriginal artists started to paint on canvas the repetition of dots became common-place and a new trend started to emerge.  The original intention of masking the sacred elements lead the way to another approach and style of painting and the evolution of contemporary artworks that have made many of Australia's Aboriginal artists world famous.

These works by Kuddtji, an Aboriginal elder, whose paintings titled "My Country" show an amazing sense of colour, balance and knowledge of his country.