The Art of Dreaming: Merleau-Ponty and Petyarre on Flesh Expressing a World

Rosalyn Diprose


I do not understand painting very well, and especially not Australian Indigenous painting, the dot painting of Western and Central Desert artists such as Kathleen Petyarre. I grew up without art on the wall, among gum trees, red dirt, dying wattle, and ‘two thirds (blue) sky’. While this might suggest that I inhabit the same landscape as Petyarre, I also grew up without ‘the Dreaming’, the meaning that this dot painting is said to be about. How and why then can this painting have the impact on me that it does? And, given the history of colonisation in Australia, including the colonisation of Indigenous meanings, what is the politics of the impact of that painting?


Indigenous art; Indigenous dot paintings; Merleau-Ponty; Petyarre; the Dreaming; colonisation

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