Dreaming the Land. Aboriginal Art from Remote Australia – a book by Marie Geissler

Dreaming the Land. Aboriginal Art from Remote Australia is an authoritative introduction to the Aboriginal art movement and highlights the early history and careers of 100 distinguished artists that pioneered the movement giving detailed insights into the sophisticated and complex nature and agency of the culture the art and people. It explains not only how the art and the actions of the artists have been foundational to the international success of the art, but what unique attributes define the contributions of each of the profiled artists. It highlights their stories and achievements and is illustrated with examples of their important paintings, many of which are sourced from the leading cultural institutions in Australia. Further, the text provides valuable insights into the artists’ profound connection to Country, their Traditional Knowledges and Dreaming.  

Aesthetically compelling, the publication explores the evolution of the contemporary Aboriginal art movement across 29 art centres and five states, an embrace that extends from the Kimberley through to Arnhem Land and beyond. The author’s opening essay traces the artistic progression from rock art through to bark painting then  the launch of the Western desert movement which began at Papunya in the early 1970s. This watershed moment led to the widespread development of contemporary painting by Aboriginal artists. Esteemed writers Margot Neale and Djon Mundine reflect on some of these moments and offer erudite contributions that distill the complexity of the art movement and its impact. 

About the Author

FCA board member, Dr Marie Geissler is an art and cultural historian, lecturer and curator of Australian Aboriginal art. She is a Research Associate, at the University of Wollongong and the National Museum of Australia, Canberra, a Board Member, of the Australian Foreign Correspondents Association and an Investigation Team Member of the Indigenous Knowledge Forum, Law Faculty, University of Technology Sydney. Her most recent publications include The Making of Indigenous Australian Contemporary Art. Arnhem Land Bark Painting 1970-1990 and ‘Contemporary Indigenous Australian Art and Native Title Land Claim’.Arts April 2021,‘10, 2, 32. Read More.

How do you feel the book can help audiences have a deeper connection to Aboriginal culture?

Marie Geissler: At a time when Australians are being asked to consider the implications of incorporating a recognition of Indigenous Australians into the nation’s Constitution, the information in a book like this paves the way for a developing a deep appreciation and respect for the sophistication, resilience, complexity and innovation of the First Nations culture in Australia. 
In a time where the impact of climate change is devastating the planet this book presents  how the values of traditional Indigenous Australian culture are an enduring testament to their profound alignment with promoting ecological sustainability and cultural respect for the land.
The way the text is written encourages the viewer to engage with its content by highlighting interesting details specific to each artist. 
If the readers are collectors, or potential collectors of Aboriginal art, it provides them with a succinct history of each artist’s life and career in 800 words and a useful exhibition history and institutional context for each artist’s work.

Alma Webou, Pinkalakara, 2005Synthetic polymer paint on canvas152x 122 cmLaverty Collection

Jan Billycan, Kiriwirri Triptych 2009,  90 x 180cm, Raw earth pigment and acryic binder on board, Short Street GalleryBroome and  Art Gallery of Western Australia

Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra, Making Spears, 1975, 200 x 171.15 cm, Synthetic polymer paint on canvas, National Museum of Australia

 Minnie Pwerle, Awelye Atwengerrp, 2001, 123 x 159 cm, Synthetic polymer paint on canvas, Photography – Artvisory, Melbourne

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