Classic histories of Australian art begin their narrative with the art of first contact, such as Bernard Smith's European Vision and the South Pacific (1969), or his history of Australian Painting 1788–1960, first published in 1960, till the standard text today. European Vision and the South Pacific remains an extraordinary thesis, in which the art and nature of the new world is shown to have been represented, according to the norms of Europeans. It is almost certainly the first great statement of crossing cultures in art history. Smith's Australian Painting, by contrast, although unsurpassed, has come under increasing criticism for presenting such a partial view of painting, omitting sculpture or anything three dimensional, or anything indigenous, or anything ancient. It is a cliché that Australians have the longest living tradition of art anywhere in the world, and yet no history of Australian art exists that accepts this statement as a premise. Hitherto ignored in all accounts of Australian art history is the painting on rocks created in Australia from 36,000 years ago, some of it probably dating from the time that Australia was first inhabited. One could interpret this extraordinary imagery as Migration art or as Cross cultural. Contemporary indigenous art in Australia makes frequent reference to this older ancestry. My paper will explore ways of writing an Australian art history from the earliest imagery until today and will also examine curatorial experience as a way of communicating these new ways of representing the past.
1. ErwinPanofsky, Studies in Iconology; humanistic themes in the art of the Renaissance, first edition, New York 1939.
ErwinPanofsky, Studies in Iconology; humanistic themes in the art of the Renaissance, first edition, New York 1939.)| false