McCulloch's contemporary Aboriginal Art – the complete guide

Art Press Release from Australia. Published by Rebecca Gabrielle Cannon on Thursday 06 May 2010.

McCulloch's contemporary Aboriginal Art – the complete guide image McCulloch's contemporary Aboriginal Art – the complete guide image McCulloch's contemporary Aboriginal Art – the complete guide image McCulloch's contemporary Aboriginal Art – the complete guide image McCulloch's contemporary Aboriginal Art – the complete guide image McCulloch's contemporary Aboriginal Art – the complete guide image McCulloch's contemporary Aboriginal Art – the complete guide image McCulloch's contemporary Aboriginal Art – the complete guide image McCulloch's contemporary Aboriginal Art – the complete guide image

If you're planning a trip across outback Australia and want to visit contemporary Aboriginal artists and co-ops, or if you simply have an interest in contemporary Australian Aboriginal art, there's one book you'll want to have in your hands as you explore this fascinating field; McCulloch's contemporary Aboriginal Art – the complete guide.

First published in 1999, with demand for a further three, updated editions since then, McCulloch’s contemporary Aboriginal Art is a comprehensive reference which contains a weighty 300 pages of full colour, illustrated descriptions of the regional and stylistic differences of Aboriginal art practise across 9 major geographic regions and more than 80 places and art centres.

Whilst the indigenous population of Australia is devastatingly small, the production of art and artefacts by Australian Aboriginals is a highly significant cultural activity. Australian’s indigenous population is an estimated 2.7% of the total, national population, however in 1996 their collective economic contribution to national art sales was, quite exceptionally, three times that of non-indigenous Australians.

The guide includes an overview of the history of Australian Aboriginal art, as well as maps and regional tours, with further details about each region. The historical trajectory of the book’s focus on ‘contemporary’ begins at around 1940, when ethnographers first began documenting the creative practices of regional communities in outback Australia.

McCullochs’ guide backgrounds the cultural conditions in Australia which have impacted this genre, such as the 1940’s ‘stolen generation’ assimilation policy which tore many Aboriginal children from their families and traditional communities, as well as the lack of legal recognition, having not been granted voting rights until 1967. More recently, the homecoming of those who were removed from their communities has also influenced the skills and economies of some communities.

The book also identifies cultural conditions which have arisen from within Aboriginal culture itself that have also impacted upon attempts at documenting this art history. For example, a traditional purpose of some Aboriginal artworks is to use visual imagery to document the symbolism and meaning of some spiritual rituals – information which is not traditionally allowed to be shared with the uninitiated, but which at some points in history has been. For example, ‘Nomads of the Australian Desert’ by ethnographer Charles Mountford was published in 1976, however it was later suppressed and withdrawn from sale due to the fact that it published culturally-sensitive intellectual property which was not permitted to be shared with the uninitiated.

McCulloch’s contemporary Aboriginal Art does not suffer from cultural insensitivities, as the book has largely been researched in person through many visits to regional communities over the past few decades by the two editors, Susan McCulloch and her daughter Emily McCulloch Childs. McCulloch’s also publish the comprehensive McCulloch’s Encyclopedia of Australian Art, and Susan’s status as a National expert on contemporary art is evidenced by the ten year position she held as the visual art editor of Australia’s national newspaper The Australian.

With the recent growth of Aboriginal art centres, from around 30 in 1996 to 100 in 2008, the guide has an exciting quantity of artworks from the most recent two decades. With such a comprehensive overview, the book really aroused my passion for art by allowing me to identify artists have have clearly broken through pre-existing styles with striking qualities of aesthetic innovation. Some of my favourites are listed below. Art Collectors will find this a valuable research tool, and the book includes a buyer’s guide to assist in finding reputable dealers.

If you are planning on using the guide to help you find art communities to visit while travelling, you should ensure that you have permission to visit the community prior to arrival. Some regional Australian Aboriginal art communities are on private land and do not welcome uninvited tourists.

McCulloch’s contemporary Aboriginal Art – the complete guide is an excellent reference book which should be in art-school libraries the world over, and will also be a valuable starting point for collectors, enthusiasts and cultural tourists of Australian art.

McCulloch’s contemporary Aboriginal Art – the complete guide can be ordered online from the publisher’s website.

http://mccullochandmcculloch.com.au/books/product/9780980449426/