Martha McDonald Papunya Tjupi Arts

Martha McDonald studio image, Papunya Tjupi Arts, 2016. Image courtesy Helen Puckey.

Can you tell me more about aboriginal art?

Aboriginal art represents events of the ‘Dreamtime’, or the time of creation.  Traditionally Aboriginal people have no written language, so they capture their knowledge via various creative forms including dance, song and symbolism.

Traditionally symbolism of dreamtime events was presented on the desert floor, on their bodies (as body paint), on cave walls or carved into timber/ stone.  In the early 1970s these designs were translated on to boards and then later canvas with modern acrylic paints.

The Western world is fortunate to enjoy these amazing ‘paintings’, but to traditional Aboriginal people these are not just beautiful artworks, they are stories of creation and critically important for the continuance of their culture and beliefs.  Every artwork tells a story from the Dreamtime, of how the world came to be.  With no written language the symbolism in these artworks ensures their country continues to thrive, as via each artwork they honour their ancestors who created the world as we know it.

What is the 'Dreamtime'?

To Aboriginal people, the Dreamtime represents the beginning of everything we have on earth today.  In the beginning, the earth was just a flat, feature-less plain shrouded in darkness.  However, supernatural beings lived below the surface of the earth.

Time began when these beings broke through the surface of the earth and became Totemic Ancestors.  They were all shapes and sizes, human-like, half human, half plant but all possessing supernatural power.  They were not morally ‘pure’.  They fought and fornicated and possessed all the qualities we have today like greed, envy and anger.  They wandered the earth and created all earthly features – like the water sites, the rocks, the hills, the vegetation, the sky and the stars.

This time of creation is referred to as the “Dreamtime”.

Their work done, these Ancestral beings then either sank beneath the earth or turned into topographical features like the rocks, the trees or sacred objects.  Now they sleep, however it is important that they be honoured via dance, song and art.  This ensures all the things we depend on will continue to thrive and be available for our survival.

Since the beginning of time, certain individuals bear responsibility for certain aspects of our surroundings.  So, for example, we find an elder responsible for the continuance of adequate population of sand goannas.  Another may be responsible for the health of the Spinifex grass, or rain, fire and the stars above.  Tribute must be paid and the Ancestral being must know about it.  Often, this involves waking the Ancestor by loud singing or poking the surface of the earth with sticks to wake the Ancestor momentarily.

The Dreamtime stories are up to and possibly even exceeding 53,000 years old, and have been handed down through the generations virtually unchanged for all those years.

Traditional Aboriginal art is therefore not just dabbing of paint on canvas.  In the past, the paintings were done on the sand, on rocks and cave-walls, on themselves and on their implements and weapons.  Now, they have transferred their wonderful art to canvas and linen and other materials using quality modern paints.

What are Aboriginal art symbols?

As Aboriginal people have no written language they communicate their stories, and pass these stories on to future generations, via symbols / iconography.

Some symbols have multiple meanings, for instance, concentric circles can represent a waterhole, a campfire or a woman’s breasts.

Geoffrey Bardon developed this guide to Central Desert symbols for the National Gallery of Victoria ‘s Mythscapes: Aboriginal Art of the Desert exhibition:

Geoffrey Bardon Aboriginal Symbols

How do I purchase an artwork?

Please email or call us for further information regarding our artworks. We will respond promptly.

What payment methods do you accept?

We accept payment via credit card or direct deposit.  For overseas purchases we only accept payment via direct deposit.

Do all artworks come with a Certificate of Authenticity?
Yes, all of our beautiful artworks come with a Certificate of Authenticity. 
How do you transport artwork?

Artworks are carefully rolled and sent in protective tubes with TNT couriers. In some cases we use Australia Post registered post.

Do I pay the Australian GST if I purchase from overseas?
The Australian GST (of 10%) can be deducted for purchases made from overseas.  For instance, if an artwork is $1,100 Australian dollars, for an overseas purchaser it will be $1,000.
How do I care for my painting?

The artworks are extremely hardy and strong, as art centres and reputable dealers use very good quality linen and acrylic paints. Good quality acrylic paints are flexible and fade resistant, so they tolerate being rolled up (ie. Inside a tube for transport). When storing an unstretched canvas artwork always roll it (the wider the better). Preferably roll it around another tube so it holds its shape. Never ‘fold’ the canvas as this could cause the paint to crack.

Should the canvas ever ‘warp’ out of shape spray the back of the canvas (the side without the paint) with a little water (using a spray mister) and it will bounce back into shape.

Artworks can tolerate some direct sunlight, however for the entire day it is not recommended.

Can you help me source a painting to suit my individual requirements / preferences?
We would be delighted to source you a work to suit your individual needs.  Please contact us and we can discuss your requirements.

Are artworks sold stretched or unstretched?
The vast majority of our paintings are already stretched on a high quality timber frame (ready for hanging).  Where possible we happily provide paintings on their frame, however occasionally they need to be taken off the frame to allow for transit. Smaller works can be sent on the frame.  Large works are best sent off the frame, and can be re-stretched at your local framer.

Is there a correct orientation for hanging artworks?
Artists paint an aerial perspective of their country, ie. a birds eye view. You can hang paintings anyway you desire, portrait or landscape. Some paintings aesthetically suit one way better than others, but there is no ‘right or ‘wrong’ way to hang artworks.

Where is your gallery located?

We operate home based galleries in Sydney and Noosa Heads. You are most welcome to visit us or we can come to you – what ever suits you. We also exhibit throughout the year at select locations for short periods of time. Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list and we will notify you of upcoming exhibitions and events.