Last Updated Oct 24, 2017 · Written by Rob Schneider
Aboriginal art is the oldest art form known to man. Engravings in Arnhem Land have been dated to at least 60,000 years. Originally, aboriginal art was used for communication and as a teaching aid. Some aboriginal art is sacred and recounts stories from the Dreamtime: the time when indigenous Australians believe the earth was created.
While sacred art is created under strict rules, many aboriginal techniques can be used to create everyday items. Aboriginal art is a stunning art form and is popular to this day. Today, aboriginal art spans traditional art forms and contemporary adaptations for modern society.
Contemporary aboriginal art began in 1934, when two Melbourne artists visited a mission near Alice Springs. One of them, Rex Batterby taught local artist, Albert Namatjira landscape painting with watercolours. Albert Namatjira is still considered one of the greatest aboriginal artists and he inspired the Papunya art movement.
Today, you can find aboriginal art in many forms, including wall tiles. We look at some ways aboriginal art is used on tiles and how to incorporate them into your home.
Some of the best known aboriginal art is dot painting. It is a technique mastered by indigenous Australians in the Western Desert. Dot painting can depict animals and totems or may take the form of intricate patterns. Dot painting tiles can be used as feature tiles or put together to create a stunning feature wall.
Dot paintings on tiles can take on more elaborate styles, incorporating lines, squares, rectangles and circles in an intriguing design. They are not limited to a few colours, but usually are made using earth tones rather than bright colours.
Indigenous Australians had no written language. They passed on Dreamtime stories verbally, but also used art and symbols to tell stories on cave walls. The symbols were easily recognisable and were a form of "letters" easily understood by others.
Aboriginal artists use those symbols to create stunning tiles. In some cases, they will make the symbols in different colours and create patterned tiles.
In other cases, they will use a coloured background and paint the symbols in white paint. They may spread them out more to create fascinating patterns on the tiles.
A more contemporary use of symbols on tiles might take a more whimsical turn. Symbols against a black and white background may be perfect for feature tiles or in a modern setting.
Aboriginal art is not strictly traditional. In fact, aboriginal artists can only produce certain themes for sacred use and are limited to their tribal styles. They can, however, create modern art as long as it doesn't breech indigenous customs regarding aboriginal art. Contemporary aboriginal artists celebrate their culture through art and create tiles with familiar aboriginal objects, like the boomerang.
They might try a new take on an old art form, like dot painting. They will create more colourful tiles, but the style is clearly aboriginal.
Modern aboriginal art on tiles is unmistakable. It may have an image of a turtle, a kangaroo or other animal on it, but it will always be distinguishable as aboriginal art.
Aboriginal art is an art form, whether it is on bark, canvas or tiles. Many of the examples below are not aboriginal art tiles, but give you an idea of how to incorporate aboriginal art on tiles into your home.
Rather than using aboriginal tiles as your more practical tiles, it's better to use them in more creative ways to highlight the aboriginal art. For example, aboriginal wall tiles can be used as a backdrop to an art collection. You may want to use them as feature tiles against plain tiles of a similar colour.
You can use aboriginal art on tiles in any room of the house. You can use them in the bathroom to create a stunning feature wall.
Or you may want to use aboriginal art to highlight your vanity or bath area. Choose one pattern or mix complementary tiles to create a stunning pattern.
Tiles are not limited to indoor areas. You can use aboriginal tiles outdoors, too. Use them as feature tiles in your patio or around the pool. Wherever you need tiles, you can find aboriginal tiles that will make a stunning statement in your outdoor areas.
Many indigenous Australians rely on their artwork for a living. Try to choose aboriginal art tiles that are produced by aboriginals who get paid for their work. Some organisations that may be able to help you choose tiles that benefit aboriginal artists include:
Desart indigenous art centres of Central Australia
Warakurna Artists (Western Australia)
These organisations are dedicated to preserving and spreading aboriginal art. They may even be able to tell you how to have original art painted on tiles. If not, they may be able to direct you to outlets that sell aboriginal art on tiles that benefit the artist and the community the artist lives in.
Aboriginal art reflects a rich tradition that reaches back in time. Indigenous Australian art on tiles is a perfect way to honour that history and give aboriginal artists an income. By choosing tiles created by indigenous Australians that also support them, you are helping preserve a rich and varied culture that deserves appreciation for the unique art forms they have created for 60,000 years.
Thanks to contemporary aboriginal artists and the organisations that support them, aboriginal art continues to evolve. You can help the evolution of aboriginal art by supporting aboriginal artists