Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Kuba skirt at The Hamill Gallery

It all started when Maurice de Vlaminck was given a Fang Mask and he was so awestruck by its "primitive grandeur" that he wanted to show everyone in his art circle. When fellow painter Andre Derain saw it he had to have it, so he bought it from Vlaminck and rushed off to show Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse: Ambroise Vollard then borrowed it and cast it in bronze. Soon everyone was trying to obtain their own pieces of tribal art which began to influence the way they expressed themselves both in painting and sculpture. Thus a new spirit of freedom swept through 20th century art in the Western world.

Shell Cachet-sex from Papua New Guinea

Many artists are inspired by tribal art and I've gathered a few images that intrigue me.

George Peterson designs, carves, burns and paints old skate boards.

Hannes Harrs' mixed media collage made from old African textiles.

The Ngurrara Canvas. 10 Metres x 8 metres. One of the largest and most spectacular Aboriginal paintings of the Great Sandy Desert Region. read story, here.

Spade Sculpture by Roger Lee. See Flickr photostream, here.

Macrame from IRONIC's Flickr photostream.

Wave after wave has brought to our shores beautiful and mysterious treasures from unknown worlds: figurines, animals, fetishes, masks, ceremonial or useful objects. They are called Primitive for want of a better name...What could never have been written is there, all the dreams and anguishes of man. The hunger for food and sex and security, the terrors of night and death, the thirst for life and the hope for survival."- Dominique deMenil, Tribal Arts Spring 1998

Tribal by Rosalie Gascoigne at The Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery

Group of my earliest totems.


  1. awe inspiring post Robyn and the quote is just spot on, remarkable. thank you for sharing everything with us, including your earliest totems. xo

  2. Wow, each one of these pieces is gorgeous in its own right, but I'll have to say, you saved the best for last!

  3. Hi Robyn, have been on a trip and am behind in my blog followin'...
    love this post once again-- wonderful stuff here-- especially like the collage by Hannes Harris and the Roger Lee stuff-- and especially love your early totems.

  4. I'm in the throws of starting an altered book about tribal art in Africa and elsewhere, this is giving me so much inspiration.

  5. Love this post; this is so where my head is now.I have all of our books on "tribal" art out and soaking it all in hoping the inspiration will journey to my fingers.
    Joan T

  6. you knock my sox off! what wonderful, inspiring pictures! I will be looking at these often. thank you! lyle

  7. Your totems are so intriguing, my friend.
    There is an elegant simplicity to tribal art that inspires wonder and questions of its purpose, history, and symbolism.
    Nothing else is like it...

    ~Love to my fave SA artist~

  8. A great selection of artwork here. There is something about the colors and textures in this type of work that definitely appeals and inspires.

  9. Very interesting Robyn, I dont know if you saw my post on the book African Art I got the other day and how I felt that if you live in Africa you have to be influenced by it in some way.
    I think a lot of those who dont live there are also influenced by it and other art from around our area,. and by that for me it is Africa to the west, the Pacific regions and on to the west of America, both North and South.

  10. Hi Robyn,adore that aboriginal painting fabulous colours. I may need to get my paintbrushes out tonight! Best wishes Blu x

  11. Dear Robyn

    I have a small collection of tribal masks because there is something about the essence of the art. To me tribal art is the most basic form of human communication.

    Thank you for sharing your vision and discoveries with us.

    Warmest regards,

  12. I do love visiting here. Always you inspire and have me nodding my head. I have recently been casting around for something 'portable' to do, something I can take on a plane, carry in europe, something to make while waiting for trains etc.

    I found my old cross stitch canvas' and threads and am creating a cushion cover with all the colours of Oz, abstract, random ( I dislike bought patterns). So, I visit here today and the first image I see has me saying 'Yes', that's where I am heading...

    Thankyou Robyn:)

  13. You always post such interesting works. It is art and artists who I would not normally come across so it is really intriguing to me.

    The skate boards are stunning, especially en masse like that... wow!

  14. I absolutely love your post today. I find it INCREDIBLY INSPIRING! Thank you!

    Carolyn ♥

    ps. I'm having a giveaway on my blog ... ends on Valentine's Day!

  15. So much inspiration here!.....just love the skateboards...:-)

  16. inspirational as ever
    you showed me a Rosalie Gascoigne work
    that i haven't seen yet
    that Kuba skirt has cousins here in Tokyo
    where i've spent today gazing in wonderment at the 'boro' exhibition in the Amuse Museum...

  17. Robyn, I don't know why these types of works move me so deeply, but won't even try to figure it out, just will enjoy the emotional connection I feel. A mega-burst of inspiration to start my day. Thank you.

  18. Been catching up on some of your posts - always awe inspiring!! You find the most amazing artists to profile!!

  19. robyn...loved this info about Maurice de Vlaminck. had no idea! i am loving these kuba skirts...makes me wonder why we have so many generic stores selling such blandness, i want one of these!!!!
    and the skate it. again, instead of bright wild hipster art these look like ancient relics. soothing and reversing what one typically thinks art is (at least in my mind). the striving to make something look aged works for me here!
    what a breath of fresh air your blog is, i find myself just waiting for the next post as i know it wont be redundant.

  20. i love the Kuba skirt piece.. checkerboard patterns, primitive and tribal art are a few of my favorite things!
    Looking at your early work it's interesting to see how your art has transitioned and's always a treat to see more of your gorgeous and unique pieces.

  21. ps your older works are stellar! the 'head' on the bottom right photo what is that? looks almost like a coconut cushioned with some delicate fabric....

  22. I LOVE IT ALL. Thanks for gathering all of that Robyn.

  23. Robyn, I have a bow and a group of hand carved arrows from Papua, New Guinea that you would love. They are fascinating. Some of the arrows are carved into wicked spirals. The fellow that traded them to my son for his jeans told him the spiral shaped ones were for people. The more normally shaped ones were for hunting pigs.

  24. all so earthy and authentic and full of life...
    and hmmmmmm mmmmmm your early totem.
    the vibrant mosaic walls and cubes below would be wonderful to wander through, touched by all those colors and angles. in the space. thanks robyn.

  25. One can never go wrong coming to your blog for inspiration.
    And lovely colors!
    Thank you!

  26. these images sing to me - my response feels primitive, so maybe it is a good term for these indigenous arts. So pure, rich and true...

  27. I could linger for days over each and every one of these images. one by one they lift and transport my spirit while simultaneously creating a ground wire that sinks deep into the eternal earth.

  28. You have such a talent for curating images. Once again thank you for such a beautiful collection.


  29. All strong and beautiful photos but my heart goes to the first and the last!
    Mary Ann

  30. Your early work belongs here so the worn black and white details with the wood.
    Those em!

  31. Tribal art has always been a favorite of mine, too. I love the Ngurrara Canvas! (My husband and I have collected a number of Aboriginal paintings. LOVE them!)

    Thanks for the post, Robyn!

  32. Fantastic, Robyn! I love the spade! Such fun! There is something user-friendly about tribal art. I "get" it as soon as I see it, unlike some art, lol! I think Picasso was onto the right thing there too. He knew how to simplify the simple. Make the accessible even more so. He was the one who grabbed collage by its horns and made us look into the eyes of a bull.

  33. Cat, the quote does hit the nail on the head does't it/

    Willow, you are sweet!

    Donna, I thought Hannes Harrs might have been influenced by Hannelore Baron.

    Ro, your altered book sounds awesome. Hope you share it on your blog.

    Joan, wishing you much inspiration and happy creating!

    Lyle, here's to knocking your sox off! Enjoy!

    Thanks DJ. Love and laughter to you.

    Seth, tribal really floats my boat too!

    Penny, yes I have seen your this book at the book shops here. Full of great photographs!

    Blu, the size of that painting is phenomenal.

    Egmont, I can remember being drawn to tribal carvings even when I was little.

    HHnB, your cushion cover is going to be wonderful.... a tribal slow quilt cushion. I love that idea!

    Azirca, the skate boards are very effective aren't they .....Like tribal shields.

    Carolyn, thanks. I popped over to mention my favourite childhood book. Winnie the Pooh of course!

    Chris, your new pale red tribal piece inspires too.

    India, you sure get around, girl!

    Jeanne, hope you are having a blast!

    Thanks Oogleboops.

    Paula, I wouldn't mind a few kuba panels myself! The head of the totem is carved wood.

    Lisa, we have too many favourite things don't we? Makes life interesting.

    Kim, looking at the wonderful colours you use in your art its no surprise that you love tribal colours.

    Stevie, the carved arrows sound intriguing!

    Neva, divine earthiness!

    Thanks Lawendula.

    Karin, it comes from the heart ... not pretence.

    Merci33 ....they lift and transport your spirit .... I like that.

    Kim, glad you enjoyed them. I really loved the lingam photos you posted and can't stop thinking about them.

    Mary Ann, that first one makes my heart sing!

    Lucky Dip Lisa, the skateboards are striking aren't they.

    Karine, I would love to have a few Aboriginal paintings. Perhaps you should do an "On my wall" post :-)

  34. Debrina you're a hoot! You always make me laugh.

  35. Amazing these works. Each one offers such a feeling and presence. I especially love the aboriginal painting. I'll have to back to look at these from time to time for inspiration.

  36. So many lovely things I can hardly take it all in! The skateboards and the Ngurrara Canvas particularly intrigue me... Lovely to see some of your earlier work too. I like how Debrina put it, and I too feel like I "get" this kind of art. I respond to it deeply, emotionally, whereas much art leaves me cold, despite being able to recognise and admire the skill of the artist. I have no idea why that is, but it's true. Thank you, as always, for a great collection!

  37. You can spot Rosalie's stuff right out..

    and that macrame..

    Takes it to a whole new level. Forget the pothangers I used to make 35 years ago..

  38. That first image immediately after the intrigued me paragraph is aweomse Robyn.

  39. Absolutely love this post

    love the bottom image; i want to touch it.

    happy valentines to you, blow a kiss to the monkeys. :)

  40. I love these images...primative...primal...core...essential...these works if art are full of the essence of what it is to live a fully human experience.

    I particularly love the skate boards...very cool use of this unusual "canvas".

  41. This post is exciting. Great artists! Your totem is so beautiful. Thank you, Robyn!

  42. Great quote, Robyn. "Primitive" art is by no means less than. I love your figure's necklaces.

  43. I love this post. thank you...

  44. Hi, Robyn~
    Had to stop by again and view the inspiring work here. I'm trying to get out of the habit of
    I'll mail you later, if I can catch up at work this week.
    Thinking of you with love; don't ever doubt it.

  45. Oh, I love the words that begin with "wave after wave," and "what could never have been is written there, all the dreams and anguishes of man." More beautiful art you share with us Robyn, patterns of the soul. roxanne

  46. A whole lifetime would not be enough to explore all the wonderful things you have on this blog!! but now I must take your advice and go make some art. :)