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Paintings by native Australians dazzle the senses

By Greg Goodsell
April 1st, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The term "aboriginal art" is sometimes used by art critics to describe art that is unschooled and unaware of technique, as found in many naive thrift-shop paintings that clutter attics. In its most pristine form, however, Aboriginal art refers to the dazzlingly complex and beautiful work of native Australians.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) Many Aboriginal paintings have deep spiritual themes reflecting the harsh beauty of Australian outback life.

According to National Geographic correspondent David Betz, civilized man has found the "abstract paintings made by its desert tribes and have been thrilled to discover a deep significance behind the work ... the spiritual connection Aborigines have with the land, its flora and fauna, and the natural elements.

"Each Aborigine is responsible for 'holding' fragments of a complex mythological mosaic known as the Dreaming, the creation stories of how their starkly beautiful land was formed and how its people, plants, and animals came to be as they are today," Betz says.

While Aboriginal art found in museums is usually attached to canvases, much indigenous art is applied to wood bark, rock, weaving and string art. Paint is also applied to the body in connection with local mystical rituals.

Apparently, one of the best-kept secrets in contemporary art is secret no more."Works by the most celebrated artists of the '80s and '90s, whose paintings sold not too long ago for a few thousand or even hundreds of dollars, now fetch prices in excess of $60,000," Aboriginal art expert Tim Klingender says.

One of the most exciting way to buy original Aboriginal art involves going to the Aboriginal communities themselves, which are strung out over a vast stretch of the Northern Territory and Western Australia. "From the air, you can breathe in the enormity of this landscape, its geographical intricacies. What you're seeing is the language of Aboriginal painting," pilot Helen Read says.

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