Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New, old Australian Aboriginal bark paintings

Susanne and William Waites have just posted eight authentic Aboriginal bark paintings from Australia that have been in our collection since 1990. These join a number of others that have been on our website for sometime.
The Lightning Spirit - Oenpelli - Neville Marrday

Australian Aboriginal barks are a unique art form. They start with a piece of bark that has been prised from the girth of a eucalyptus tree. It is placed on the ground over a smoldering bank of coals with the edges extended to a flattened configuration. Rocks are placed on the corners and the edges to hold the bark down and flat while it cures.
Mimihs & Hunters - Milimbimbi - Djawida

After it has dried and is mostly flat, the stringy side of the barks is scraped to make it smooth. When it is completely flat and smooth, the surface is painted. The media are ground-up ochre, kaolin and charcoal. These all-natural pigments are fined with sand and bound with honey or flower juice.
Bolyu (water spout) Dreaming - Yirrkala - Dhuwarrwarr Marika

The applied patterns involve various designs and icons depending on the area from which the painter comes and the tradition of that area. For example, Oenpelli tends toward an "x-ray" technique that replaces 3-dimensionalism while portraying the shape and skeletal essence of the creature represented. Other areas have other traditions. The Tiwi people of Melville and Bathurst Islands employ a cross-hatch (rarrk) that is said to the specific property of the painter's clan.
Long Neck Turtle totem - Tiwi people

It is said that the bark painting tradition had its genesis as a way of decorating the inner side of bark slabs cut and flattened to serve as lean-to shelters during the wet season of the tropical Northern Territory.

There is more to read and learn about bark painting at the TribalWorks website Australian Room, along with additional examples of this genre.

Incidentally, all these paintings were acquired when the Australian dollar was significantly less valuable vs. the US dollar. The prices were set on the basis of those 1990 exchange rates. That makes them very attractive values at regular price. With our current April Foolishness sale giving 30% off through the end of April, they are even greater bargains.

US and Canadian collectors can call us at 800-305-0185 for more information or order inquiries. Australian collectors tapping into this blog, are invited to inquire too, via the email address on our Web site. We can ship to Australia at very reasonable rates. We would love to see them repatriated to their homeland.