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Painting the Dreaming White

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-25, 22:05 authored by Rolls, M
This paper discusses the work of two very different settler-Australian painters, and in particular, their respective interest in Aboriginal art and myth. Margaret Preston, one of Australia's leading modernist artists, was interested in bringing Aboriginal designs to popular appeal, largely through home furnishings, because of the contribution she thought they could make towards the creation of a robust nationalist aesthetic. The other painter considered, Ainslie Roberts, who did not enjoy critical acclaim as an artist, ignored Aboriginal designs when painting his interpretation of Aboriginal myths. Roberts' believed he was assisting in bridging a gap between two cultures, and that his paintings were a genuine record of Aboriginal mythology. Whereas Preston sought from Aborigines the 'ways of seeing' that she felt could serve as the foundation for an Australian aesthetic and paid no heed to the mythological and cultural context of Aboriginal design, Roberts took the converse approach. He endeavoured to illustrate Aboriginal myths and legends through paintings not in any way derived from the Aboriginal visual arts. Both artists, however, subjugated Aboriginal designs in the one instance and myths in the other to their own respective interests and concerns.


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Australian Cultural History







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