Dot Art

History: Dot art is a new form of the traditional and indigenous Australian art originally produced by the Aborigines.  This art has a history that extends over 60,000 years.  Dot art has its origins in bark painting, body painting, and rock and stone painting.  Elements of this type of painting include dots (similar to pixels), concentric circles, lines, stripes spirals, ornaments, tracks in the sand, and depictions of animals and plants.
In the early 1970s, an artists’ co-operative, the Papunya Tula Artist Pty Ltd., became instrumental in introducing these paintings to the public for the first time.  Earlier, this type of painting had served cultural purposes such as recording historical events for posterity.  They were, so to speak, the history books of the Aborigines.  In addition, the painting also told about secret and sacred ceremonies that were known only to selected members of the tribe.  The dots in the paintings  served to camouflage and partially hide sacred signs and symbols.  In time, these art forms became trendy and attracted the attention of western cultures.  Today, works of famous Aborigines command high prices.  For instance, in 2007 a work by Emily Kngwarreye entitled “Earth Creation” was auctioned in Sydney for more than one million dollars, the highest price ever paid for the work of an indigenous artist.

Technique: Originally, paints were made from natural pigments mixed with ochre and other rock pigments and then applied with a blade of grass or small twig.  Acrylic paints and manufactured wooden dowels of various sizes are used today to apply the paint. 


Most importantly, the paint must have the proper consistency so that it neither runs nor forms globs and, thus, would ruin the dotting design.  The dowel is dipped into paint with the tip only and then applied vertically onto the surface to be painted.  Up to three dots can be applied with one dip into the paint.  Equal distances between the dots are of importance in order to achieve an attractive appearance of the painted surface and to attain the “pixel effect.”  As each consecutive row of dots is being applied, repeated additions of small amounts of other colors will produce a gradual transition in color scheme to the entire work.  This technique of painting is very time-consuming and, yet, very interesting visual effects can be produced, often leading the artist and viewer to a meditative, if not spiritual, state of mind.