Aboriginal art can be reconciled, as has become evident, within the Modernist aesthetic with considerable ease…A number of the most exciting and beautiful recent works are painted collaboratively, exuding all manner of detail, with thrilling colours that make references to places, to the cycles of life. There is an energy in these works that celebrate life while acknowledging every bit of struggle, individual and collective. As images of abstract balance and skill, they are unsurpassed. The combination of traditional and indigenous forms of representation is of course not unique to Australian culture; in fact what seems so relevant to the world at large is the successful nature of this cultural ‘bricolage’.

Desert Aboriginal ground and body, implement or rock art employs earth pigments, animal products, plants, and feathers. Each material, in a manner Levi-Strauss associates with bricolage, retains its association with its source, origin, and locale, and brings these into the work as elements of its own meaning. Thus, colour is only one basis for identifying, choosing, and then ‘reading’ a medium. But with acrylics, colour is the only basis for differentiation. This radical difference in the semiology of materials can take some getting used to, but in the end may free the artists in another sense, presenting new choices unavailable to the bricoleur.

Janet McKenzie
Mediators and Messengers: Contemporary Art in the Landscape