Heart of the Desert: Aboriginal Art from Papunya, Yuendumu and Balgo
Beginning in 1971 at a government settlement called Papunya in the central desert of Australia, Aboriginal men began painting on masonite, wood and canvas. This activity grew into a major art movement that, after radiating out to the neighboring communities of Yuendumu and Balgo, shocked the international art world with its contemporary aesthetic. Men and women artists in each place developed their own local style of painting by varying elements like the palette of colors and quality of dots. Elements common to acrylic painting throughout the desert were initially derived from traditional art forms that were painted on the body or drawn in the sand. Icons in the paintings represent features of the landscape, ancestral beings and their activities in the creation era known as the Dreaming or Tjukurrpa. The concentric circles, wavy lines, and animal tracks that make up the primary design elements of the art of central Australia express a traditional body of knowledge and relationship to land that has persisted for thousands of years. Heart of the Desert includes paintings from Papunya, Yuendumu and Balgo in the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia.