Dreamings: The Art of Aboriginal Australia

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ISBN-13: 978-0807612019
ISBN-10: 0807612014
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Australia's Aborigines, who have lived on that continent for at least 40,000 years, were until recently considered extremely "primitive." Today, anthropologists recognize their complex social patterns and rich cosmology, their centuries-old contacts with Melanesians and Indonesians, their pioneering of human cremation, rock art, tools and grindstones. So too with Aboriginal artit is slowly gaining recognition as one of the world's great artistic traditions. The Dreamtime of the Aborigines' bark paintings, acrylics, ceremonial objects and sculptures is both the sacred, life-giving dimension of the present and the realm in which ancestral spirits roam the landscape. Sutton, an anthropologist with the South Australian Museum, led a team of experts to put together this astonishing, gorgeous book and the landmark traveling exhibition it showcases. Works reproduced range from geometrical dreamscapes with startling similarities to modern abstract art, through mythic, psychological and erotic symbolism, to contemporary reworkings of the Aboriginal aesthetic in rugs, posters, ceramics and photography.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced, these oversized volumes marking Australia's bicentennial both highlight Australian scholarship and introduce Western audiences to the history of an intriguing art and culture that link the present with humankind's origins. All three books offer authoritative essays discussing form, media, style, meaning, and significance as well as the cultural, economic, and political context of producing art. And all three share a respectful approach toward the aborigines, whose nonmaterialist culture produced a rich aesthetic integrating artistic, spiritual, social, and intellectual systems. Dreamings , an exhibition catalog published jointly by The Asia Society Galleries and the South Australia museum, explores aboriginal art forms based on a belief in the "Dreaming" or "Dreamtime." This spiritual event, infusing the present as well as the past, dates from a time when Ancestral Beings roamed the world and shaped the formless landscape into the distinctive plant and animal life of the isolated continents. Imagery in bark paintings, sculpture, shields, and acrylics shows where aborigines have lived and traveled and how they have experienced the Beings. The Art of the First Fleet , published in association with the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the British Museum (Natural History), reproduces the original visual materials created during the first decade of the British settlement of New South Wales, as rendered by three members of the Sirius, one of the original 11 British ships that explored Australia in 1788. These materials have aesthetic, historical, and taxonomic importance. They are the first European depictions of Australian aborigines, and as the earliest drawings of certain plants, birds, mammals, and fishes, they established the formal description and naming of the flora and fauna. Baudin in Australian Waters similarly describes the works of two artists, C.A. Lesueur and N.M. Petit, who sailed with Capt. Nicolas Baudin's French voyage in 1800-04 and pictorially recorded the expedition's scientific endeavors and the changes in environment wrought by colonial development. This illustrated catalog of drawings and watercolors of native subjects (found in the Lesueur Collection at the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle, Le Havre, France) combines scientific detail, accuracy, and design values. It is fascinating to compare contemporary British and French depictions of the same subject. Recommended as important resources for Australian art, culture, and history. Robin Kaplan, The Information Group, Los Angeles
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 266 pages
  • Publisher: George Braziller (October 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807612014
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807612019
  • Product Dimensions: 11.3 x 9.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #394,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By saliero on May 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book should be in every library collection. It is also a handsome volume for the enthusiast or interested person.It is comprehensive, and contemporary.
Gorgeous colour plates, fully annotated.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Althea on January 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With over 300 illustrations and 155 color plates, coupled with in-depth analysis of Australian history and culture, this book provides an excellent overview of Aboriginal art. There are great examples of bark paintings, sculptures and shields, in addition to the more recent acrylic paintings.

The essays by five different authors/curators take a respectful, appreciative and knowledgeable look at the worlds oldest art and some of the artists who are still following its imperatives. Though, as Peter Sutton explains, it is not so much art as it is a religion made visible. The paintings are also living maps of the natural and psychic world of the people who made (and continue to make) them. There are many fine samplings included here, both contemporary and historical.

Peter Sutton starts with an explanation of the power-filled ground of existence, the Dreaming, (or the Dreamtime) and moves on to define the Dreamings, who are the Ancestral Beings who inhabit both our present world and the Dreamtime. The Dreamings are known by their names and they are represented by particular sets of symbols and signs and patterns. Thus, each painting is a story to be read. It is a mythology and a history of the Ancestral Beings, their gifts, their travels and their experiences. Well, sort of. It's more complicated than that, but the authors of these essays dive into the subject and try to clarify it for non-anthropologists. What needs no clarification is the beauty of the paintings themselves; they communicate directly with their vibrant colors, energetic forms and sure lines, even if one doesn't know the esoteric significance of these elements.

This book came out in 1988, when this art was just beginning to find an appreciative audience here in the US.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By alert customer on September 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The book was mostly print with small dull pictures. Only one was of the fabulous rock painting (and they left a colored measure stick in the frame). They mostly showed photographs of things in museum collections and sketches and drawings done by observers of the natives. I kept feeling a sense of condescension toward the culture and art work of these peoples. They left out the colorful, exciting dream cave paintings which I've seen elsewhere and wanted to see more of.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very good book for the layman. If you are a student of Abstract art, this book should be in your collection. Beautifully put together and very well written. Some very nice color photos of the paintings.
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