Rock art in Northern Australia
Early rock painting at Ubirr, Northern Australia
From MMOA’s Timeline of Art History
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Timeline of Art History has a section on the history of art in Australia. Most fascinating for me was reading about the “X-ray” style in Arnhem Land rock art. This style of Australian Aboriginal art is fairly familiar in contemporary work, but I did not know it was called “X-ray” and that it is so ancient, reflecting an unbroken continuity with the ancient X-ray tradition.
The “X-ray” tradition in Aboriginal art is thought to have developed around 2000 B.C. and continues to the present day. As its name implies, the X-ray style depicts animals or human figures in which the internal organs and bone structures are clearly visible. X-ray art includes sacred images of ancestral supernatural beings as well as secular works depicting fish and animals that were important food sources. In many instances, the paintings show fish and game species from the local area. Through the creation of X-ray art, Aboriginal painters express their ongoing relationships with the natural and supernatural worlds… X-ray paintings occur primarily in the shallow caves and rock shelters in the western part of Arnhem Land in northern Australia.
Have a look at the great images.
One of the best known galleries of X-ray painting is at Ubirr, some of which may be from as far back as 40,000 B.C.! More beautiful images here.