Artworks of Indigenous Australian artists are in equal measure visualizations of their cultural identity as well as creations within their own aesthetics, which in their powerful impact are rarely matched.

Formally, the art developed from the ancient rock painting and rock etchings, which belong to the oldest expressions of human art, from the body painting for religious rituals and from the ground paintings or sand installations, which were (and sometimes still are) likewise created for ceremonies. Paintings on bark, an early form of art, is still practiced today in Arnhem Land.

In the early 1970s, two conditions which led to a new art movement were fulfilled: the First Australians had achieved significant political freedom after 200 years of persecution and suppression, and they had received access to art materials such as acrylic paints and canvas. The first condition permitted them free expression of and within their own cultures, the second released them from technical constraints, with the result that there was an explosive spread in their contemporary art and a diversification of styles.

Since the 1980s, art styles have developed in the major cities which deal in particular with the questions of identity and with the colonial and post-colonial forms of suppression of Indigenous Australians, resulting in very explicit political statements about (historical) events.

We will address the history of the development of Indigenous Australian art in a series of detailed articles, as indicated in list of topics below. So far, there is a detailed description of the beginnings of the new art movement in Papunya.

  • Pre-Colonial Art
  • Indigenous Art in the 19th Century
  • Albert Namatjira and the Hermannsburg School
  • The "Bark Petition" and Land Rights
  • The Beginnings in Papunya
  • Expansion of the Art Movement
  • Boomali and the Political Art in the Cities