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Day of Special Interest 22nd November 2011

Dreamtime to Machine Time (Aboriginal Art)

Lecturer: Rebecca Hossack

Rebecca Hossack was born in Melbourne and now runs two thriving London art galleries, specializing in non-western art.  She has served as the Australian cultural attaché to the U.K. and lectures widely.  She is passionate about bringing aboriginal art to a wider public.  

The study day looks at "the oldest cultural tradition in the world", its beginnings and modern resurgence.  We will learn about the meaning of "Dreamtime" and the aborigine's deep respect for the land.  We  look at paintings from different aboriginal countries and discover how to read the symbols and signs used.  We will hear about the important legal status of the art.  Rebecca will talk about her visits to the aboriginal people and their visits to her in London.


On the 22nd November 2011, members of Chester NADFAS attended a Study Day at the Grosvenor Museum on the somewhat esoteric subject of Aboriginal art and culture, given by Rebecca Hossack, an Australian herself, and the owner of art galleries in London and New York.

Aboriginal art is an art of paradox. It is the oldest continuous art movement in the world, rich with a strict sense of meaning, formally prescribed with no place for imagination and largely revolves around the metaphysical. Its symbols have been handed down for over fifty thousand years and relate entirely to the land in which the Aboriginals live and to their ancestral heritage.

Painting on board or canvas began in the early 20th century and only then came to general public attention, but since much of it contained sacred information, it was disguised by the familiar dots.

Although initially suppressed by the white government, who were not keen to encourage the culture of the Aboriginal nations, for many Aboriginals the paintings have since become a means of elevation in society.  As well as fetching thousands of pounds for their aesthetic and interest value, they have also, in certain circumstances, assumed the status of legal documents in matters of Aboriginal land rights. Sadly, we were informed that much Aboriginal art in the outback is now under threat from Chinese mining interests and other industrial projects.

Rebecca also touched briefly on the more modern bark paintings and contemporary Aboriginal art.

The subject proved totally absorbing and the day was completed by the inclusion of a tasty (and beautifully arranged) buffet lunch provided by  Annie Trevor-Jones.