Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I dedictate this one to Cadbury.

Chirtie's response inspired me. I took at look at the website she posted at Molecular Expressions Photogallery. The images that struck me most were the ones from Australia. The photo (left) is a glimpse of Vegemite under the microscope. I never did come to appreciate vegemite but it is a taste and a smell I will never forget! I spent seven months in Australia and I absolutely loved the landscape. I also fell in love with aboriginal Australian art, especially dot paintings. When I came back to Canada I taught some lessons at my mom's school in Alberta. These lessons were based on "story maps" and involved teaching the concepts behind some of the dot painting that I saw done by aboriginal artists in Western Australia.

Dot paintings are made by artists who are seated, usually on the ground. The artist's paintings represent many things from Dreamtime stories to practical stories of how to find food in the local area (like this one may be as it is entitled "going for honey ants"). The wonderful and challenging part of these paintings is that they are all painted from the perspective of one looking down from above or from a 'bird's-eye view.' The artist spends a lot of time dreaming and imagining the story from a point high above the earth before creating a work of art. Sometimes artists use symbols widely recognized by many different aboriginal groups in their art. Sometimes they use personal symbols and sometimes they use different colors of dots to represent various characters, settings, symbols, and feelings in their art. Dots are marked onto a solid colored canvas using a blunt stick. Paints may come from natural colours like in the picture above which feature colours such as reds, ochres, black, and white. While more modern paintings may use many different types of paint from oil to watercolour and use all the colours of the rainbow. I like that in this culture the artist is also a story teller and to truly appreciate this art you must hear the story of the painting. The true meaning of a painting is secret until it is delivered in an oral sharing. This makes collecting this art very special. You may take with you a story that keeps that painting 'alive.'

I challenged the kids in my mom's class (Grades 1-6) to make a story map in this way. They shared the events of their journey to school in the morning. All of these children were schooled at a rural location and so many of them had up to an hour of bus rides throughout the country side. They really enjoyed creating symbols for landforms, people, and animals in their own country. They also had fun learning about bird's eye perspective and sharing their painting's story with their peers.

Once again this is a fascinating form of art because it involves looking at things from a different perspective. I like that vast areas are represented by relationships of color and tiny dots marked on the canvas, sometimes layered. It is a very creative form of thought and I think quite complex. You have to step back from these pieces to see the 'big picture' similar to the idea behind the microscopic images Chirtie posted. The largest canvas I saw took up an entire wall and was created by three women working together on a dot painting. I was surprised by how long I could stand and appreciate different parts of this single piece of art work. I was amazed at how the artists managed to maintain the scale of their work while creating what was essentially a mural! I looked at it for more than an hour and came back to the gallery in Fremantle on several different days to see if I could see even more. It is wonderful when art can speak to us in such challenging ways. I like that this abstract looking art also serves practical purposes and was important culturally to educate others with information. This is art that crosses many boundaries... how exciting!


At 11:04 AM, Blogger Chirtie said...

*shudder* Vegemite! At least it looks nice under a microscope!

The dot paintings are really interesting... do you have any links to sites of them?

At 12:17 PM, Blogger Leah J. said...

I have a lot of dot paintings and I also have some pictures from calendars. Looking a bit on the web it is easy to find many examples using "Aboriginal Art + teaching" as a search engine. A site that has lots of examples is
http://www.aboriginalartonline.com/index.php. I will set up a link from my blog now that you mention it!


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