Appreciating the Dots and Circle Style of Modern Australian Aboriginal Paintings

The dots and circles style of painting on canvas is the product of an art movement that revived the early aboriginal art of drawing icons and symbols on sand. Dots, concentric circles, straight and curved lines were drawn on smoothened sand surfaces to communicate secret knowledge to initiated tribal members.

Interesting Facts About Ancient Australian Aboriginal Art

Using dots and circles was also the traditional way by which the first aboriginal men told stories; but did so only in their own land and away from prying eyes of strangers. Drawings used in story-telling were generally left on the ground as they were expected to disappear naturally in time. Yet it was more common to smooth away the drawings to keep the meanings of the dots and circles hidden, especially from people belonging to other tribes.

In 1971, modern Australian aboriginal artists began using the dots and circles style in painting landscapes on canvas. However, while the style and the artworks themselves gained popularity in the international art world, concerns were raised by many contemporary aboriginal artists. They realised that utilising the art style of their ancestors could lead to revealing spiritual and traditional knowledge kept as secrets for thousands of years.

After all, it’s not a difficult feat to create landscape paintings on canvas using dots and circles. Australia’s landscape is at the core of aboriginal artworks because the country’s topography is a dotted landscape on its own. Dominated by outbacks and deserts full of rocks, stones, spiny plants with stiff hard leaves and lone trees standing distances apart, these elements pose as great inspirations for painting landscape art using dots, circles and other symbols.

Outside of the art world, the rocky and arid characteristics of Australian soil have made the land surface unstable as foundations for homes and buildings. That is why in Australia, residential underpinning is an important procedure in construction projects.

Meaning of Dots and Circles in the Art World

The use of dots and circles in art is actually not exclusive to Australian aboriginal art. In fact, French artist Seurat developed a painting method known as Pointillism. The circle is regarded as the most recognizable and preferred shape because it’s easy to draw. In the world of art, a circle symbolises unity and equality, having no beginning or end.

A dot on the other hand, signifies a beginning and end of a line. When used as repeated imprints on artworks, dots are used to fill gaps and spaces, while also creating a textured and layered effect.