The Meaning and Different Types of Indigenous Australian Art

Australian Aboriginal art is one of the world’s oldest living art forms and because Aboriginal art has a regional flavour and style, different locations with distinct traditional languages approach art in unique ways. More temporary Aboriginal art may be identified by the community where it was created.

Dot painting, for example, is unique to the Central and Western deserts. Arnhem Land is known for its cross-hatching, rarrk pattern, and x-ray paintings. Wandjina spirit creatures are indigenous to the Kimberley region. In Arnhem Land and East Kimberley, ochre paints are preferred. Other style variants are more closely associated with specific communities.

Painting with Dots

lizzy stageman art

The paintings of Central Australia take on a more abstract character, derived from religious designs utilised in ceremonies. Dot painting ranges from the finest of dot work produced with thin sticks to larger bolder dots forming a variety of designs ranging from earthy to bright colourful dots. Most people associate Aboriginal Art with this style. This style primarily evolved from body painting (dots) and ground paintings in dance celebrations, which were later translated to canvas in the 1970s during the Papunya Tula Art Movement.

One great example of a contemporary Australian artist who uses this technique is Lizzi Stageman. Her popularity skyrocketed once she joined Buy from the Bush and was featured in their advertisements. With record print sales and a surge in commissions, her recent work is an explosion of colour from mother nature, while she typically works in black and white. This rapid surge in fame is incredible; Lizzy Stageman art has accomplished so much in such a short period of time that she is now hosting seminars and teaching others how to do the same.

Naturalistic / X-Ray Style

Aboriginal X-ray art is a traditional form used to illustrate indigenous creatures and stories in Northern Australia (Arnhem Land NT). Many of the animals have been drawn in X-rays to show some anatomical aspects. X-ray art demonstrates the artist’s connection to and understanding of his homeland and its people. The precise depiction of bone frameworks and internal organs creates a three-dimensional effect in the image.

Cross Hatching

lizzy stageman wall art

These masterpieces, known as Rarrk paintings in Northern Australia, are thought to have enormous spiritual potency. Fine-line cross-hatching is employed to depict sea creatures and reptiles like barramundi, turtles, and aquatic reptiles. To precisely paint the rarrk’s exquisite detail, hair-like bristles found inside the stem of a reed are employed, or human hair itself is used. It was originally a traditional ceremonial painting, and Kunwinjku artists utilise rarrk to represent these traditions today.


This wonderful kind of Aboriginal art is surrounded by controversy, intrigue, conflicting information, and confusion. Much effort has gone into determining the origins of these figures, and a definitive answer may never be available.

A number of Indigenous communities from the area where the Bradshaws are situated think they are not the product of the Aboriginal people, but rather predate their arrival in Australia and were copied by them. This would imply that there was an earlier group of humans than the Aboriginals who called this country home. Then there are contradictory tales, such as one of the most well-known Bradshaw painters, Kevin Wainer, who claims the paintings are the work of his Aboriginal ancestors.

Bradshaw figures are symmetrical, mystical, and occasionally depicted with detailed headwear, such as the characteristic cone shapes and “knots” that represent a luxurious and elegant style. Bradshaws are also seen in their artworks hunting and performing traditional dances, and Kevin Wainer adds a great touch by putting hand prints in many of his paintings.


Wandjinas are found solely in the Kimberley region of north-eastern Western Australia; they are not found elsewhere in Australia. They are deeply spiritual to the inhabitants of this region, the Mowanjum, who speak three languages: Worrorra, Ngarinyin, and Wunumbal. Wandjinas have enormous eyes, resembling a storm’s eye, but no mouth. They are thought to lack mouths since having one would make them too powerful. They are frequently depicted wearing ornate headdresses that represent many forms of storms.

Painting with Ochre

Ochre is indigenous to Arnhem Land and east Kimberley and is a form of hard clay that occurs naturally in a variety of colours including red, pink, yellow, white, and even blue. The majority of ochre is located between the Kimberley region of Western Australia and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory’s centre.

To manufacture paint, it is pounded to a powder and combined with saliva, egg, water, or animal fat. Many more colours are created by combining white with various pigments, such as human or animal blood or plant pollen. It is the oldest sort of paint used in Australia, with some touch-ups reaching back thousands of years.