Australian aboriginal art comprises symbols with spiritual underpinnings and motifs influenced by the native indigenous communities of Australia. The stories that form the basis of the paintings reflect the cultural and social landscape of the region. The history of Aboriginal art in Australia dates back approximately 80,000 years!
Art enthusiasts are fascinated by the range of aboriginal art pieces in the form of engravings, rock-cut art, paintings, etc. They are generally attracted to the stories that are told through this art. However, most modern aboriginal art pieces use dot painting and cross hatching techniques. This article will quickly brief you on the technique and its unique details.
The technique of cross hatching or Rarrk involves the use of contour lines for the object’s silhouette or outlines. Later, the artwork is filled with hatching lines, thus signifying its name. These lines can be straight or take the contour object and are referred to as cross-contour lines.
Aboriginal art in this style has been prevalent across several civilisations for a long time. This piece of art symbolises the narrative of the painting through its colour patterns and intersecting lines. These line drawings depict shadows. Closer lines produce darker effects, and the marks provide the impression that the object is being shadowed.
Hatching is done by drawing close parallel lines using pencils, crayons, charcoals, paints, etc.; this technique involves drawing another set of lines crossing the first set of lines.
This technique has evolved into a more structured and stylish art form in indigenous Australian art. The Northern Territory Aboriginal artists predominantly apply this technique. In Arnhem land, it is known as Rarrk. These paintings are initially drawn on cured bark. Now, acrylic paints and canvas are used to do cross hatching. This technique depicts the animal’s internal organs in X-ray-styled artwork.
Arnhem Land’s Rarrk Technique
The Rarrk painting technique is applied to bark paintings, larrikin memorial poles, body paintings during ceremonies, rock art, and prints. The crosshatched stacking of lines into geometric units is the foundation of the miny’tji painting technique. Yolngu communities claim ownership of these shapes and figures. Every clan relates to a unique miny’tji signature, and the pioneer of this artwork can make these designs with elegance. This painting method incorporates sacred rituals, and the materials used for this artwork have specific significance.
Materials Used in Rarrk Technique
Marwat is used to achieve the hatching designs of the Rarrk artwork. Marwat is a paintbrush made from human hair by tying a few strands with a cotton thread and has a carved wooden handle.
Dipped in ochre paint, the marwat is deliberately positioned on the top and is brushed away from the artist. This results in a straight line. As the hairs under the weight of the paint stand straight and offer no resistance, it can produce a fine line. This process is repeated many times till the paint is dry and then repeated in another direction.
The colours that are traditionally used for this artwork include red, black, white, and yellow. They are painted in alternate fields. Marwat holds significance to the Rarrk artist as they believe that the beauty and power of these ancestral designs are given by it. Kunwinjku art comprises Rarrk designs and is used to draw reptiles and sea creatures such as turtles and barramundi.
Australian Aboriginal Art is revered among artists for their story-telling features. Their paintings have brought the world some of the most archetypical forms of communication between communities. The designs and art forms of aboriginal art reflect the sheer brilliance of the artist rooted in a past that no longer exists.