Image: Gloria Petyarre works | Source: Mandel Aboriginal Art Gallery

Indigenous Masters: The Artists Who Paved the Way For Aboriginal Art

Aboriginal art is a truly unique art form. Comprising of many different styles including, dot painting, bark painting ochre painting, cross hatching and fibre art, the style and character of Aboriginal art is usually dictated by the artist’s local region and community. This often means each work tells a lot about the history, stories and culture of a particular area of Australia. Without Aboriginal art, we would not have access to this unique understanding of Australia and its cultural history.

If you’re an Aboriginal art newbie and are wanting to learn more about this unique practice then a great place to start is with the Aboriginal artists who revolutionised the art movement.


Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri was an Anmatyyerr artist and one of the founders of the Aboriginal desert art movement. Clifford grew up around 200 kilometres northwest of Mparntwe (Alice Springs) and was influenced by this region’s Dreamtime stories in his paintings. Having joined the Papunya Tula Artists in February 1972, Clifford’s artworks are defined by his striking, multi-layered and rendered effects. While his most famous work, Warluglong, was so admired that it appeared in a BBC documentary, we also love his lesser known works, such as Tjapaltjarri Dreaming and Dingo Dreaming.

Gloria Petyarre

Gloria Petyarre was one of Australia’s leading Aboriginal artists. Having sadly passed away this year, Gloria’s work remains to be as influential today, as it was when she first began. Known for his swirling layers of Kurrajong bush medicine leaves, Gloria’s style has become popular with many emerging Aboriginal artists. Being so highly sought after by global collectors and galleries, it can be difficult to get your hands on Gloria’s remaining works. However, if you do, you won’t be disappointed.

Minnie Pwerle

Minnie Pwerle was an Alyawarre artist born in the Utopia region of the Australian desert. Minnie’s work is characterised by its bold brushstrokes, vibrant colours and distinctive silhouettes. When Minnie first began painting, her pieces quickly caught the attention of a number of renowned galleries. It wasn’t long before all of Minnie’s pieces were purchased and she was thrust into the mainstream Aboriginal art spotlight.

Dorothy Napangardi

Dorothy Napangardi’s artwork has been exhibited all around the world and many of her pieces remain in highly renowned international galleries. Having been awarded the honour of being the 2nd Indigenous artist to ever have been given a solo exhibition at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, we are lucky enough to have access to over 11 years of Dorothy’s artworks. Working with the traditional dot painting technique, we love these beautiful black and white pieces that depict a sacred women’s dreaming site in the Tanami Desert.

Louise Numina

Louise Numina is a contemporary Kaytetye desert artist. Having been taught by renowned Aboriginal artists, including Gloria Petyarre and Minnie Pwerle, Louise notably takes on some of the distinctive styles of older aboriginal artists. We see this in her colourful Bush Medicine Leaves piece, which continues to tell the cultural stories held by the Peytre, Mambitji and Numina family groups. With overlapping colours and brush strokes, Louise is able to bring the bush and its stories to life.

If you’re searching for more art inspiration then you may be interested in painting reconciliation, ceramic artists changing the game and where to find the best modern art for your home.

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