Creativity throughout the ages has shifted and changed within the attitudes reflected by an ever changing contemporary society. The ancient cultures ideally believed in an external creative force which would pass through the artist and be reflected in the work. In ancient Greek philosophy this external creative force was seen as a muse. Ancient Europeans traditions believed in the spirits of the land, faeries that would come and go tricking some and blessing others. These beliefs separated the creative process from ourselves as individuals and allowed the artist the privilege of creating without fear of judgement or persecution and the act of creating was seen as a blessing from the spirits. It could also be seen that this process of creativity was free, abundant, and completely untamed.
Creativity in European society changed dramatically during the Renaissance period, when the individual was seen as the creative energy himself. This period saw the rise of the ‘pop star’ artist, artist that would gain success beyond their time for creating work from their own incredible hands. These artists would take on the burdens of success and failures of their art. This was the beginning of the artist ‘ego‘, a conflict of self satisfying pursuits and public recognition. This individual creativity and anguish now manifests itself in modern society as the ‘tormented artist‘, drinking and unsociable, sacrificing family and love for their art, unable to have ‘healthy regular’ lives like the rest of society. There is no room for family and children, or a ‘real job’ as the artist is made to believe he has to ‘suffer’ for his art.
Creativity in the Australian Aboriginal sense known as the ‘dreaming’ had a sense of the old worldview of creativity, where the spirits were responsible and the knowledge was a sacred energy passed on to the elders and healers within a tribe. This sacred creative process has shifted in the past 20 years to fit the mould of contemporary society turning from that of a ‘sacred source’ to that of an individual artistic expression. Our most successful artists have ‘solo’ shows and have works featured in major collections further exemplifying the ‘individual artist’ approach.
Our artists working at Papulankutja are creating in a period where the ‘creative dreaming’ spirit is still very much alive but is threatened to vanish and be morphed by a more contemporary creative ‘individual model’. People are afraid that Aboriginal culture is being lost to its contemporary version of itself, however, the old dreaming spirit is still very much alive, living in country. This energy never left, we just have to remember to listen to it and paint it the way that country wants it to be painted. We at Papulankutja are trying to nurture the ancient wisdom and ancient creative abilities to keep this creative energy alive and strong. We talk about the greater spirit known as ‘country’ and how we can paint that feeling of spirit into our paintings. The break through is evident when a young artist transcends the usual styles of story telling to a more defined and expressionistic interpretation of the stories which clearly demonstrates that the story and country is alive whin their painting. I am lucky to have seen this ‘break through’ period in many of or artists who have desired more than painting ’ordinary’ paintings, and are now painting artworks with a deeper expression of story and vitality with energy which can only be described as coming from the spirit of ancestors and the earth beneath them.