Friday, September 5, 2008

Aboriginal Investment Art - Part IV

Before we have considered the subject of a painting, it;s style & the artist. In this part we will be considering the painting or artwork itself & how that may affect its future value. Firstly consider what material the painting is painted on. Is it paper, canvas, plastic or some other fabric. Some Aboriginal Art works, particularly by desert artists have been painted on some strange materials. While I suspect that in some cases this will improve their re-sale value, you also have to keep in mind how the work will last. Also what sort of paint etc has been used. Again - that can be interesting.

Many paintings, particularly designed for the export market are painted on un-stretched or partly stretched fabric. These need to be properly framed & sometimes that can be expensive & occasionally not possible to be framed properly. (If this is the case the canvas may be put behind glass & may be an uneven size - which can make it interesting!) If the painting is not going behind glass it should be sealed with a quality sealant. Unfortunately many Aboriginal artists fail to do this. Clear sealant can be purchased for any quality art supply store & is easy to do yourself - a soft brush is preferable. Apart from protecting the painting, a sealer makes it possible to clean the painting with a damp cloth if it gets dusty or dirty & also keeps the colours nice & bright. Sealers are available in matte, semi-gloss or full-gloss. In most cases I would recommend a semi-gloss, but any good art shop will advise. The worst thing I have heard of is t the rumour that went around a few artists that hairspray was a cheap sealer. While it works in the short time I'm told it is extremely harmful in the long term.

When deciding how much money to spend on a work remember the cost of framing if needed. Any work, if bought unframed should be professionally framed with 1 - 3 mattes. Perhaps try several colour options before deciding. Ochre colour mattes often work the best. Many of the works in my store are already framed. Horses in Kelp is an example of a painting professionally framed with 3 mattes all done in traditional Aboriginal colours. The professional framing of Horses in Kelp adds considerable beauty & value to a simple, but traditional & meaningful painting. Rosetta Dreaming is painted on a framed canvas & has been sealed properly by the artist. It is ready to hang as it is. Details of both paintings are available at

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Aboriginal Investment Art Part III

It is important to remember that there are many different styles of art throughout Australia. In pre-European times Aborigines painted on caves, bark, on sand and on their bodies. In additions to this the walls of our huts (the building of permant/semi-permanent dwellings was much more wide spread than commonly known) were decorated with art work, as were the possum skin fur coats some tribes wore. Implements for both play & work eg. didgeridoos & boomerangs were also decorated with art. It has been said that Aborigines devoted more time to art than any other race. Orche colours were the most common as they were available in most places. However other colours (even blue) were occasionally used, if there was an available source of that colour.

Art was often used to tell a story and for educational purposes. A painting that comes with a detailed story can be a good investment piece. Does the story match the "dreamings" of the area the artist is said to come from? Or is the painting for tourists? (Paintings from outback areas can be more 'fake' in this regard than urban Aboriginal art.) Educate yourself about the art that belongs to different areas of Australia. Even within areas, what are the tribal symbols? Are there any totems clans should or should not use? Does the subject of the painting match the sex of the artist? eg.a female should never include a didgeridoo in a paintings. In many (though probably not all) areas of Australia only female artists paint wombats and numbats. Women are also gatherers so often show more details of plants in their paintings. Men tend to have more landscape forms in paintings because hunting often occurs over a large area. Does the painting conform to what you have been able to learn about "genuine" works from that area? There are plenty of good reference books in libraries that will guide you. One tip you probably have never heard before is to examine "cave art" from the area of the artist. Cave Art is always an example of the authentic style of that area. The range of Native Australian Art is much wider than most people think. Dot Art is only one style; and is not as wide spread as is often thought. Though the Desert Artists are popular, Aboriginal Art from other areas is just getting to be better known, and could make an excellent investment piece. Genuine paintings are always painted from a certain angle; even landscapes by Aboriginal artists conform to this principle, which gives them their unique look. In this latter case, watch out for Aboriginal artists who make a point of proclaiming their university training. Most paint genuine art, but I have come across ones who seem to have lost the very basis. Fairer skinned Aboriginals are often expert traditional artists & many produce paintings worth $1,000s. Likewise a darkskinned person holding a painting doesn't mean that the painting is any good as an investement piece & doesn't even prove 100% that they are even the artist!

Look at the painting above Rosetta Dreaming. The artist comes from an area where Eastern Rosellas occur & she has used the traditional symbols to tell the lifecycle & story of the birds. She has used double dot work to show the brillant colours of the rosella. They are depicted nesting in hollow trees, eating grass seed & flying. She has used white dots to signify dreaming as they traditionally mean & has even given the painting a bit of a featherly look. Rosella Dreaming is a modern traditional paintings that expresses our culture well. More details of this painting are at

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Aboriginal Investment Art - Part II

In Part 1 I discussed in detail about religious works produced by initiated Aboriginal persons.
Are these Art Works the only true Aboriginal Investment Art? As I have stated on numerous
occasions, Aboriginal art styles varied right across Australia. If you wish to purchase art from only initated persons you are not going to enjoy all the varied styles of our art. Much painting
was & still is done for cultural reasons. In areas of Australia where our people were removed,
exterminated or simply converted to Christianity early in the 1800s initations (at least in the
tribe you belong too - it is usually possible to get iniated into another tribe if you want to) can no longer occur. Does that mean that Aboriginal persons from those tribes know nothing about their culture so can not paint authentic art? No. Aborigines everywhere have retained a knowledge of their culture, & as art has always been a large part of our culture, we have retained a knowledge of our art. Many of our 'dreaming stories' teach principles of right & wrong; so have been remember and are still taught to our children. Important land marks & sites are still known and the stories connected with them repeated. In addition in many instances families still retain guardianship over art sites; some of which are on the edges of big cities such as Sydney. As our culture is 'not to share our knowledge with un-apreciative persons' & government policies of yesteryear also discouraged talking about cultural matters many persons are unaware of how much knowledge modern Aboriginal persons still retain. Therefore some comments about "authentic Aboriginal Art" are spoken more in ignorance than in fact. Non-initated Aboriginal persons can produce art that reflects accurate knowledge of our culture & laws and the history of their tribe, clan, family and ancient (& sometimes current) religious and spiritual beliefs. Such artists would not consider painting anything that their gender or family connections were not allowed to paint, and their 'aboriginality' shows in their work. High quality Aboriginal art from all areas of Australia is available and as we hope 'truth replaces myth' in the future some paintings and other works of art purchased today may increase greatly in the future. The above painting was produced by a modern artist using ancient symbols & spiritual concepts. (For details of painting & understand its symbols please see It's meaning would be understood by all Aborginal persons & many people familiar with our culture.

Aboriginal Investment Art - Part I

The myth still persists in some places that only initiated persons can paint genuine Aboriginal
art. As initiation has more to do with religon that culture; this is not true. Many non-initiated people have an excellent knowledge of their culture, in some cases this knowledge has been passed down to them through several generations. I will now explain a little about
religious art and how this may affect your purchasing decisions. After reaching puberty
Aborigines went through an initiation process. As this is really a religious act, it is only tribes that still retain a fair amount of religious knowledge where this still happens. How does this affect art? Like most other religions you reach a higher "rank" as you obtain more knowlege & power. The most sacred of religious art is only created by older persons who have completed several stages of initiation and is not allowed to be seen by anyone except other initiated persons and very little is in private hands.

The next level of religious art again is only painted by highly initiated persons, but may be
viewed by other, but with tight restrictions. It should only be shared with persons who treat it
with respect. Prior to 1980 some art of this level reached the market (sometimes by accident) & is probably the best investment Aborginal art you can buy. As many aboriginal persons consider
selling such art for money as offensive as 'flag burning' in recent years little has been
released onto the market. The fourth level of religious art is still only produced by 'persons who have the right', but the most sacred & magical pieces are not included (or masked over in some way) and often the artist, while still being initated has a lower level of knowledge and does not know all the details of the ancestral beings that older person does, so can not include these in their painting anyway. This is the level of (religious) art you are most likely to buy. What I call
the "third level" is a little below the second. It can be painted only by very knowledgeable
elders; but the most sacred elements are left out or concealed. This art is still considered to
be 'sacred' & there have been some successful lawsuits because of unauthorised persons
desecrating it by putting the designs on tea-towels etc. (And breaking copyright laws of
course!) This type of art can be very expensive, so do your research if you are especially
interested in purchasing a painting of this type as a long-term investment.
Also remember no one can be a true prophet of how the future market will price works. eg. as artists' eyesight deteriorate with age the quality of their work may go down. This could make some of their works worth less; on the other hand the fact that it is one of the last paintings they produced could send its value sky-rocketing. If you wish to buy work by a particular artist as an investment piece, please make sure that the actual artist painted the work. In some cases other family members may have done the actual work, this could have a major bearing on its future worth. (As families & individuals 'own' stories under traditional law - the story owner can sometimes be named as the artist when in fact they did none of the actual painting.) Please note that in most cases the artist retains copyright of his work and therefore has the right to produce & sell copies of your 'famous' piece. You can offer to buy 'copyright' with the painting, but be
prepared to pay for the priviledge. It is good to remember that Aboriginal Religious art can be offensive to certain people (consider the first three of the 10 Commandments) & therefore should be avoided by some people; or you may need to consider where you hang it.

Other people may wish to purchase it because of 'magical properties' they believe it has. Much
of our art is secular or relates 'dreaming stories' that teach everyone good morals.
This is the first in a series that deals with "Choosing Investment Aboriginal Art". Please stay
tuned for more exciting episodes! To learn more about the painting & how it pertains to
religious art; please go to & to read all about why the artist painted it.

Tasmanian Aborigines & Their Art

As mentioned previously I am a Tasmanian Aboriginal artist. Tasmania is the beautiful island
state lying to the south of eastern Australia. It is renowned for its scenery, mountains, lakes,
wild untamed rivers, beautiful beaches, unique animals etc. World travellers are all impressed
with the beauty of my island home. I have been fortunate enough to do some travelling myself, so
can verify this firsthand. The state of Tasmania includes Macquarie Island; therefore rather
than being the smallest, I say this makes Tasmania the largest Australian state! While this last statement may be debatable no one will deny that Hobart, where I was born, is one of the most beautiful harbour city in the world.

Anthropologists disagree as to the relationship of my people to mainland Aboriginals. At one
time we were considered to be a distinct separate race; then just a separate tribe. The present
opinion is probably between these two extremes. Certainly we are descended from the earliest
human arrivals in Australia, and being cut off by Bass Strait did not intermarry with the later
arrivals like our mainland cousins did. Our culture is similar theirs, which proves we are
closely related. Some say our language is similar to the language of the original aboriginal
inhabitants of Japan and we share a common genetic pattern with them. Certainly we have some oriental features; almond shaped eyes, high cheek bones and a long forehead. In recent years
some anthropologists see a close similarity between us & the Tolai people of Papua New Guinea.
As well as being similar in appearance, we also use shell necklaces for the same cultural
reasons as the Tolai & also sing in harmony in the style of Papua New Guineans unlike our
mainland cousins who are not renowned for their singing. Full bloods were a deep tan brown with a yellow tinge, shorter in statue than Europeans. Most have curly hair, our men having tighter curls than the women. In pre-European times our men had beards of tight ringlets. We have tiny ankles and wrists. The early European invaders considered us to be a good-looking well-formed people.

Our people were divided into 9 tribes. There were at least 5 dialects of our language. On the
west coast permanent villages of huts were built. Shellfish collected by the women and small
mammals and birds hunted by the men were a major part of the diet. Women also caught small
animals and collected plants. Coastal tribes made regular trips to off shore islands to hunt
seal and mutton birds. (Our people still make these trips. Some traditional foods are very
popular and such outings provide a continuing link to our culture.) Water craft were made from
bark & reeds. Incidentally Bass Strait is one of the roughest bodies of water in the world. Our
women made sturdy baskets for collecting food and carrying personal items in. Tools and
containers were made from wood, bone, stone, seaweed, bark, grass and sinew or tendons. We
produced the first known art in Australia.

This painting is an examples of Tasmanian Aboriginal art. More can be learned about it at It is entitled 'Hobart', my birthplace. If
you check out the web link it will show what the traditional symbols used represent. I hope you
like this modern version of ancient art.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

An Australian Aboriginal Artist Speaks

With the title 'All About Aboriginal Art' who am I? From my profile you will see that I am an indigenous Australian. More to the point I am a Tasmanian Aborigine married to an aboriginal from N.S.W. I have travelled over much of Australia & also resided in the South Pacific. I can speak languages native to that region. Our culture is very varied; I do not claim to know everything, but I am careful to research before I speak. I speak from my heart & can only say what I feel as an Aboriginal person living in this 21st century. I paint to express my aboriginality & my soul. I obey tradition & so paint only what I understand I am allowed to by culture as a Tasmanian & member of my family's tribe. I like to educate people about the many styles of Australian Aboriginal art - so paint as varied as possible. I also paint to educate about my homeland, our history, our culture & what needs to be done to preserve it. I have been inspired by the cave art of my people. This beautiful ancient hand stencil is from a cave in Tasmania. I like to think my ancestors either painted it or knew the artist. If you enjoy this site, please tell your friends about it.