This work is intended to raise a question with the viewer. What is Aboriginal Art?
The Papunya Tula central desert art movement began at Papunya in 1971 when a group of men started to paint traditional stories on walls at the local school. This was a catalyst for artists to start painting stories on canvas. In Yuendumu in the 1980’s a similar action took place where stories were painted onto the school doors, intended to remind the kids of their culture and traditions while being a part of a European education system. Over the next few decades Australian First Nations art exploded on an international level. The market for Aboriginal art grew and the dot painting technique has become the most recognised form of Australian First Nations art around the globe. The dot has become such a significant icon for Indigenous art in Australia that it has done two things;
1 - The majority of public opinion on Australian First Nations art is that it needs to fit into a certain motif to be ‘authentic Aboriginal art';
2 - The idea that art needs to look a certain way to be authentic confines all First Nations art to a certain period, location and style, freezing in time the definition of “Aboriginal”, and holding the notion that First Nations art cannot be contemporary.
There will always be discussion around the use of Australian First Nations traditional cultural motifs in works of art that aren’t connected to that culture. The appropriation of one culture's techniques, such as central desert dot painting, by another culture suggests that these motifs are a thing of the past to be used by anyone who wishes to draw inspiration from previous art movements. What isn’t recognised is that central desert dot painting is very much a part of contemporary art. Dots are used in contemporary stories that have evolved to present day, some of which are sacred. Appropriating parts of First Nations painting techniques without consent or knowledge of what is being used is problematic.
This work is designed so that people from all different cultural backgrounds involuntarily paint a single black dot on a white surface as soon as they open a door in a frequently used stairwell. In homage to the Yuendumu doors I draw attention to a culture that has been oppressed and appropriated for centuries.