Bark Painting

Bark painting is one such Australian Aboriginal art form where the inside of tree bark strip is painted, generally with natural ochres. In 1925, the aboriginal communities in Yirrkala, the Arnhem land, inhabitants of North-Eastern Territory of Australia, were encouraged to promote this incredible skill and to produce more Bark Paintings and to monetize it. In time, Bark painting emerged into the market far enough to attract the attention of other aboriginal communities from Groote Eylandt to Milingimbi.

Unlike previous generations, this generation of Bark painting artists did not limit themselves to their own local community, but they forayed into the outer world and attracted not only national attention but also international attention. By 1930, modern bark paintings made their first appearance and were sold in New South Wales & Victoria. From the high demand, Narritjin Maymuru, a famous Yirrkala artist, was asked to present exhibitions. In 1980, Bark art had finally been recognized as “Fine Art Category”.

Stringybark, the bark of Eucalyptus species, was used. What’s special about this bark is that it peels off in the wet season only and has a special way of peeling by making two horizontal lines and one vertical line. Artists cut the bark using a sharp instrument or tool. It is maintained over fire to dry it. Once dried, its ready to paint.

Bark painting has conjectural patterns & designs such as cross-hatching that represented particular groups, communities and, often, an element of the Dreamtime. The designs are sacred. Sometimes these elements are symbolic and sometimes with a story or two with men and or animals and ancestral spirit beings.