Aboriginal Dot Painting

Dot painting has been a technique used by Indigenous painters for many generations. They have been recognised in paintings on batik, canvas, artefacts and carved into ancient cave and rock designs. This technique was and is continued to be seen in ceremonial sand designs.

Dot painting is symbolic of many important and innate teachings throughout Indigenous culture. It can be used to symbolise strength and power surrounding a certain area painted on the canvas and can also be used as form of camouflage, whereby the artist uses dot work to overlay the sacred Country mapped out underneath it.

As many Indigenous artists continue to negotiate which stories are scared and thus a secret to their community, this dot painting technique allowed for the artist to protect these stories from the wider community, as they were camouflaged in an abstract way through dotting overlay.

In most recent times, dot painting really came to light during the Contemporary Indigenous Art Movement in the early 1970’s emerging out of Papunya Tula. Papunya is an Indigenous community located approximately two hours drive to the north-west of Alice Springs. As such, dot painting is a prominent form of Aboriginal artistic expression throughout Central and Western Desert Australia.

Some of these Central and Western Desert artist communities include Papunya, Utopia, Balgo, Kiwirrkura, Haasts Bluff, Yuendumu, Mt Liebig and Kintore.

Dotting styles and techniques do vary from community to community which is what makes Aboriginal dot paintings so unique and so highly sought after.

For example, many Pintupi artists use a dotting design to surround their representation of sacred iconography like a halo, to express the power and importance of this sacred site.

In addition, some artists utilise a dot and drag technique to create bold lines within their paintings.

Dot work is also used to infill designs on the canvas and in Utopia for example, many artists use highly intricate dot work to completely fill the canvas, creating amazing movement and designs within their artworks.

In the remote community of Amata in South Australia for example, many artists express their dreaming through bold areas of colour on the canvas, which is created through a dabbing, dotting process that is often highlighted through the use of contrasting colours.

As Aboriginal dot painting is so unique between Indigenous communities and between the artists within each community, it has meant that this beautiful art form has continued to renew itself, whilst continuing to pay homage to the ancestors and sacred teachings that have been passed down generation after generation.