For centuries, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in various parts of Australia have used a dotting technique to share stories, either by drawing in the sand, painting on rock or as ceremonial body decoration. Artists in Papunya were using dots long before they began painting in 1971, along with many other forms of mark-making. Some sources will explain that dots are used to disguise secret/sacred cultural information, and this was true at a certain moment in the 1970s for a few artists who covered their entire canvas or board in dots. Most artists who use this technique today are located in the desert regions of Australia and this is the technique they use to share their ancestral creation stories. The dotting technique creates a sense of motion or pulsing in the artwork, with a decorative quality of sparkle and shimmer that many artists and collectors seek out. The dots themselves are not a sacred form of patterning, and there are some artists, whose work is purely commercial, who use dots so that non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can easily identify their artwork as “Aboriginal”.

A dot. A small round mark or spot, fleck, speckle or point. A mark on a surface. A dot is also used to emphasise a pause in punctuation and in more recent times, a dot often signals our place on a digital map inside a smart phone. The dot is forever evolving.

This curator talk will take you through AGSA's permanent collection exploring the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and provide suggestions for ways for students to respond in an appropriate and meaningful way that does not include cotton buds and acrylic paint.

Below is a gallery of works of art mentioned during the curator talk. Feel free to scroll through as you listen.