Some artists take your breathe away. After thirty years in the industry we still feel that thrill of discovery. Here are the people we are proud to represent.
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Ethics & Authenticity
Japingka Aboriginal Art has been associated with Aboriginal art through its Directors for over thirty years. We are committed to fair and ethical trading in all our dealings with Aboriginal art and artists.
Japingka Aboriginal Art is a foundation member of both Aboriginal Art Association of Australia the national body for Aboriginal art organisations and businesses, and of Indigenous Art Code, the Federal Government initiative to establish best practice for quality and ethical standards in the industry.
Our Gallery at 47 High St, Fremantle is open weekdays 10-5:30 and weekends 12-5.
Please come and visit to view our current exhibitions, or view them online.
Painting on Country - Utopia Artists
Utopia artists set out on a conscious journey to link their land to their art when in the 1970s they began art development projects to make sustainable creative work on their remote homelands. This project was made during the process that was to lead to the granting of title to their native homelands. Its purpose was to provide income to indigenous people living away from towns and settlements that offered job infrastructure.
The outcome was highly successful and lead to a multi-generational involvement in the arts that produced income for hundreds of people. Often grandparents, parents and children were all deeply involved in the business of producing art and in the process extending the cultural knowledge held by the elders to younger generations.
The Anmatyerre and Alyawar people of Utopia maintain their strong connections to land, ceremony and song. These elements are embedded in their artwork as a means to establish and reinforce their identity in cultural heritage and strengthen their cohesion as custodians of their lands.
The shimmering and expansive paintings that are made of fine dots reflect the desert homelands and the stories that give deep meaning to all elements of the land and its resources. It is part of a tradition of knowledge and identity that defines the people of the lands and gives such a distinct quality to the artistic statements that they create. Contributing artists include Kathleen Ngal, Cowboy Loy Pwerle, Elizabeth Kunoth Kngwarray, Gracie Morton Pwerle, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Abie Loy Kemarre, Galya Pwerle, Polly Ngale and Nancy Kunoth Petyarre.
The settlement at Ikuntji, formerly called Haasts Bluff, is located 230 km west of Alice Springs in the spectacular West MacDonnell Ranges. It had been established first as a missionary station in 1935 and then as an Aboriginal Reserve in 1941. It housed many different language groups including Luritja, Kukatja, Pintupi, Warlpiri, Arrernte, Pitjantjatjara and Anmatyerr people, all far removed from their traditional lands. In 1960 the community was officially opened and in 1979 was handed back to the people to be self-managed.
The Haasts Bluff location has a long association with the art developments in the Western Desert. In the 1970s male artists living there painted for Papunya Tula company. In 1986 it hosted the major Women’s Painting project that saw the women artists of the Papunya art movement emerge from the shadows of their male family members. Women who had previously assisted the men with their paintings now emerged as artists in their own right. The stories that they painted and the choices of colour and technique that they undertook saw a new phase in the Desert art movement.
Ikuntji Artists emerged in 1992 at Haasts Bluff after artists workshops by Marina Strocchi saw the art centre established within the Women’s Centre initiative in the community. This structure continued until 2005 when the art centre was incorporated as Ikuntji Artists Aboriginal Corporation. Major artists established their careers here including Long Tom Tjapanangka, Mitjili Naparrula, Narputta Nangala, Marlee Naparrula, Daisy Napaltjarri Jugadai, Alice Nampitjinpa and Eunice Napanangka Jack.
The challenges for small communities like Ikuntji includes the role of transferring the artistic and cultural practices from the mostly senior women to the younger generation. The art practice in the community remains diverse and vibrant.
Aboriginal Art Centres support artists and ensure that their work is sold through ethical channels. Japingka Aboriginal Art is proud to exhibit the work of many Art Centres from around Australia.
Come with us on a learning adventure. Read in-depth educational articles that cover the context and background of Aboriginal art and culture, including interviews with artists, art centre co-ordinators and art collectors.
Aboriginal Art - The Big Picture
Learn more about the context for contemporary Australian Indigenous art.
Art of An Ancient Culture
Aboriginal art is part of the culture of Australian Aboriginal people who have lived on the Australian continent for over 50,000 years. They represent the longest continuous culture to be found anywhere on earth. Examples of Aboriginal art are found in caves and rock shelters, and the oldest of these have been dated back at least 18,000 years.
Scientists are using new technology to see if even older dates will be confirmed. Some of these rock art sites depict animals that are now extinct on mainland Australia and show a time when the climate and ecology were very different to what we have today. This artwork is part of the historical record of the Australian continent.
Modern Materials Tell Creation Stories
Today Aboriginal people use modern art materials to make their paintings, but they still rely on the ancient stories and culture to give meaning to what they paint. At the centre of many artworks are the Dreamtime or Creation stories that tell of how the land and all of nature were created by the Ancestors.
The Dreaming stories connect people to the land and require that the people act as guardians and continue the traditions and ceremonies laid down by the Ancestors. By painting and singing the ancient stories and songs the people maintain their connection to the land and their ancient heritage.
European Impact On Culture
Aboriginal people experienced a massive change to their culture and lands when European settlers came to Australia in 1788 and spread out across the country. In the past 230 years, as many as half of the 200 plus Aboriginal languages have been lost.
Many have survived and are part of the movement today to recognise and preserve Aboriginal languages, knowledge, and culture. From the 1970s onwards there began a change to the way Aboriginal people gained recognition for land rights and cultural respect.
Contemporary Aboriginal Art Movement Begins
A major step happened in 1971 at Papunya, a desert community in Central Australia, when senior men painted a large mural at the school to show the Dreaming story of the Honey Ant. School teacher Geoffrey Bardon had asked young students to paint stories from their own culture rather than paint images taken from western culture.
The elders painted the mural using the symbols familiar in their own culture, possibly intended as a statement of authority and direction marker for the local discussion about art. This action led to a painting group of senior men working at the school. They produced artwork based on their own Dreamings and using the ancient symbols of desert culture.
Aboriginal Fine Art Movement Spreads
The decisive action by Papunya artists gave rise to the Desert Art movement as other communities and artists also started painting their stories using modern art materials.
The early paintings made at Papunya have become very valuable, and by the 1980s Aboriginal artworks were being exhibited in art museums and galleries in cities across Australia and internationally.
Art Centres Facilitate Cultural Expression
Many remote Aboriginal communities developed their own art centres to assist artists with materials and marketing. Papunya, Yuendumu, Balgo, Haasts Bluff, Ernabella, Kintore, and Lajamanu were among the communities that established art centre structures.
Other communities like Utopia relied on resources in towns like Alice Springs, which acted as service centres for the central desert region. Since the 1990s the availability of Art centres has extended to include hundreds of small remote communities.
Colour Palette Expands
The early desert painters at Papunya relied on a range of basic colours, often gouache or water-based paints, using black, white, yellow, red and brown tones. These colours were the ones most like the ochre earth pigments that had been used for ceremonial painting and rock art for thousands of years.
As the artists moved towards modern acrylic paints in the 1980s the range of available colours became much broader and brighter colours were introduced. Whereas men were the main artists at Papunya and women assisted within family groups to work on the men’s paintings, by the mid-1980s women began to make their own paintings. As part of this process, as women artists became well known they also opted for a wider range of colours.
Aerial View of the Land
Many desert paintings use aerial perspective, where the land is seen from above as if painting a map of the artist’s country. This comes from the need for Aboriginal people to keep deep knowledge of their country in picture form and in a song cycle so that they could carry large amounts of information in their heads.
The aerial view paintings often have Dreaming information overlaid on the map of the terrain, giving both a physical and a spiritual account of the country.
Art Brings Income & Cultural Expression
The spread of contemporary Aboriginal fine art has been an important part of life in remote communities. It has provided financial income to artists and their families, while also strengthening traditional culture and its role in everyday life, in schools and all interactions with the wider community.
Art has been able to communicate the values of Aboriginal life to the rest of the world and to overcome language and communication barriers.
Regions, Custodianship, Family Connection
Aboriginal art is regional in style, with each area having its own style and preferences, based on the local Dreamings and the work of influential senior artists of the area. Custodianship of Dreamings is passed down along family lines, and each family only paints those stories that they inherit.
Some regions have elected to use only natural ochre pigment paints while others have chosen to use acrylic paints within a certain preferred tonal range. Many of the artists do their painting in shared working areas, so ideas and techniques are readily observed and shared across generations within families.
Recognisable Art Styles
The art of the Central Desert has been the most influential in bringing Aboriginal artworks to a worldwide audience. Its use of repetitive patterns and mesmerising rhythms that are based on the forms of landscape and tied to Creation stories seems to speak to all universal values.
Other art-producing regions in Australia have a longer history with collectors. In particular, the bark painters of Arnhem Land along the north coast of Australia, have sold their work to collectors since the end of the nineteenth century. The styles seen in these regions use natural materials, ochre pigment on tree bark, and fine linework made with cut reeds. The subjects often include figures of humans and animals, sometimes using what is called the x-ray view, that shows the insides of the animals.
Contemporary Aboriginal Art Has Universal Appeal
While these paintings were admired and collected, they were mostly displayed in ethnographic museums that showed the art of the Indigenous First People.
It took the more abstract work of the desert artists to open up to the modern world about the time-honoured values and knowledge contained within Indigenous cultures. Now, these paintings are shown alongside modern western art in contemporary art galleries and homes of art lovers around the world.