A discussion about Australia’s best living artists in the Australian. The author comments on Australian Aboriginal art:
I have included in my list only one Aboriginal artist and no dot painters, despite the fact Aboriginal art is such a key part of Australian art discourse today. This is not because I do not feel confident judging Aboriginal art. It’s because I believe its success in the market does not reflect its quality, which is rarely high.
For too long now in discussions of Aboriginal art, people have been getting artistic excellence confused with sociopolitical pieties and patronising, ill-considered forms of romanticism. I believe I am far from alone in holding this view, but one rarely hears it expressed because almost everyone with expertise in Aboriginal art has a finger in the commercial pie.
The Aboriginal artist in question is John Mawurndjul.
Mawurndjul’s bark paintings of the rainbow serpent Ngalyod and, more recently, the Mardayin ceremony are impossible to forget. They relate the drama of ritual to visual forms and patterns that seem to squirm across the surface of the already undulating bark he prepares and paints on. The best of them are spellbinding images — sometimes figurative, sometimes abstract — that flicker with light and syncopated visual rhythms.