“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to present to the Chinese public these inspiring works of Australian indigenous art. The artworks featured in the exhibition reflect the different histories, traditions and stories of these two aboriginal communities,” he says.

When it comes to Australia, “what comes immediately to Chinese people’s minds is the aboriginal art of Australia”, says NAMOC dean Fan Di’an.

Like an encyclopedia of pictures, Australian indigenous art records the aboriginal people’s spiritual world and cultural tradition. Its distinctive artistic style and formative models reveal a rich imaginative tradition recorded in mysterious symbols and flamboyant colors, according Fan.

“In a word, the aboriginal art of Australia is a perfect combination of practicality and artistry, a vital part of the cultural heritage and artistic treasures for all mankind,” says Fan.

The Papunya art community is widely regarded as a driving force behind the contemporary Australian aboriginal art movement, according to NMA director Andrew Sayers.

Papunya lies close to the Tropic of Capricorn, in the far southwest corner of Australia’s Northern Territory.

Heralded as the birthplace of the Central and Western Desert art movement in the 1970s, a movement that in turn is credited with kickstarting the contemporary indigenous art movement in Australia, the Papunya exhibition is a collection of master works from the early years of this artistic flowering.

In the 1970s and early 1980s Central and Western Desert artists at Papunya, in Australia’s Northern Territory, created a body of work that transformed the understanding of aboriginal art both in Australia and internationally.

On canvases, boards and whatever materials they could find, these artists boldly experimented with color and style in the telling of their sacred ‘dreaming’.

Many of the paintings in this exhibition tell stories of the activities of sacred ancestral beings. Aboriginal people refer to these collectively as ‘The Dreaming’, explained Andrew Sayers.

In the Dreaming the great ancestral beings created the world through their actions. In creating the world, they left their spiritual presence in the features of the land – a presence that is still there today. So, for aboriginal people, the Dreaming exists in both the past and the present.

To aboriginal people the hills, trees, animals and plants – everything – is the living embodiment of the sacred ancestral beings of the Dreaming.

Also from the Western Desert, but in direct contrast to the artworks from Papunya, the more contemporary artworks from the Kukatya indigenous people of Balgo Hills in Western Australia are “a riot of color and energy,” organizers say.

A leading center in indigenous art today, the Balgo Hills community lies in Northeast Western Australia 300 km south of Halls Creek.

Known in the Kukatya language as Wirrimanu, the Balgo Hills community, while geographically close to Papunya and sharing strong cultural and family ties, “have forged their own unique style using the rich colors of the Balgo landscape to convey the energy and dynamism of indigenous culture in this region of Australia,” explains Jackie Dunn, the curator for contemporary art from Balgo Hills.

Consisting of contemporary paintings and etchings, the artworks of this school of indigenous art are very colorful.

“Like Papunya, Balgo Hills presents a range of stories that demonstrate the strong connection indigenous people have with their traditions and the land, and the ways in which these traditions and connections are maintained today,” says Dunn.

The exhibition “clearly shows the Australian Government’s great efforts to preserve aboriginal art and to help this art produce new creations, an experience very useful for Chinese policymakers in cultural heritage protection and preservation to learn,” points out Fan Di’an.

In return for this wonderful exhibition, the National Art Museum of China will launch an exhibition of Chinese modern arts during the Year of China in Australia from 2011 to 2012, according to Fan.