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Dot dot dot

4 min
Design  ✺  Art

In each place I’ve called home, I’ve been interested in regional art forms.

In Los Angeles, the area’s architecture piqued my interest—from the original craftsman homes in Pasadena to simple mid-century marvels in Palm Springs, each representing the tastes, values, materials, and technologies of their day.

In London and Malaysia, textile and surface design drew me in—from William Morris’s wallpaper designs and the perfect Scottish wool and English tweed to batik painting and ikat weavings. I wanted to dress myself, and my home, in all of the above.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, the art form was audible: bluegrass music. The skill of clacking spoons and scrubbing washboards to create a rhythmic sound, paired with soulful storytelling, was undeniably entertaining.

Now living in Australia, the canvas has captured my attention, and I’m excited to learn about dot art, the distinct art by aboriginal artists.

Years ago, I watched a video clip of an aboriginal artist sitting on the floor creating her painting one dot at a time. Along with the artwork, she looked so peaceful, intentional, knowing. As I learn about the art form, those descriptors ring true even more.

Though the stories and concepts depicted in dot art come from an ancestral heritage, the art form is entirely modern, first appearing on canvases in the early 1970s. The dots served as an abstract design choice to conceal the sacred meanings of the painter’s indigenous stories and knowledge. Using symbols, colors, and patterns, their spiritual representations–and connection to Country–come alive in contemporary ways, one dot at a time.

Artist Michelle Possum Nungarrayi
Artist Debra Nangala McDonald
Artist Debbie Napaljarri Brown
Artist Yannima Tommy Watson
Artist Mali Isabel and her winning poster design for Adelaide Fringe 2022

Growing up, I’d stare at a framed poster of Kandinsky’s Composition IV that my dad likely bought at a thrift store or yard sale for what seemed like hours. It hung In our apartment in a tiny barley-a-hallway space between our two bedrooms and single bathroom. I was transfixed. I’d make up what I saw in Kandinsky a work, or what I thought it was trying to say. What I did know for sure was that it made me feel good. Expansive. Alive. I’d later learn that Kandinsky's abstract work was closely tied to his own spirituality and how he experienced colors and sound.

He's famously quoted as saying:

Everything starts from a dot
Composition IV by Wassily Kandinsky 
Composition VII by Wassily Kandinsky 

Creating art has long been associated with self-expression, and as I like to see it: spiritual expression.

Lately, my daughters’ favorite book to read is The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. Vashti, the little girl, believes that she can’t make art but that all changes when her teacher gently asks her to leave her mark, any mark, on the blank piece of paper. Frustrated and annoyed, Vashti stubbornly jabs the sheet and leaves one dot in the center. Her teacher frames that simple dot, hangs it on the wall, and Vashti’s experience of making art expands. I’m always happy when our daughters pick it as their bedtime story of the night. Not because it’s short and sweet, but because it’s spot-on: The Dot is about discovering, embracing, dancing with your creative spirit, and inspiring others to do the same.

In all of its forms, art is both self-expressive and representative of a collective experience and creative desire. Whether through architecture, textiles, music or paint on canvas, each form serves as a point of exploration and connection.

In the few examples of art forms that piqued my interest over the years while living in different places, I can imagine a dot coming first: a dot on a sheet of paper to write a musical note, to draw a building's blueprint, the first drop of pigment to dye a piece of fabric, and the first dot to tell a story.

There's something simple yet infinitely exciting about a dot, perhaps because dot by dot, we create for ourselves and each other ...




Stretch your eyes from where you sit

Stretch your eyes from where you sit

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