Oceania Arts

Oceania Arts

Oceania Fine Art

Ocean’s traditional art, which has been described since the late 1700s, exhibits great stylistic variations between the sites. Highly colored surfaces and exaggeration of natural shapes are style elements in many places in Melanesia, while the art of Polynesia is especially known for surfaces covered with intricate geometric patterns and Micronesia’s more sparse art for an elegant, undecorated simplicity of form.

Art was an inseparable part of the community’s continuation as a spiritual kinship, and it was central to interaction and competition with other groups through trade, marriage, celebration and war. Beauty, rarity, or strangeness were part of an object’s function as a means to amaze and dazzle the viewer. This applied to both cult objects hidden away or destroyed after use, such as masks and sculptures of ancestral wood such as Malanggan in New Ireland and men’s companies in Sepik, Maprik and Vanuatu, as well as weapons and implements such as shields from the asthmatic and Solomon Islands as well as clubs from Fiji, Tonga and the Marquesas Islands.

The human body everywhere was the object of decoration, and also the decoration of the body was to fade, thereby giving the warrior invincibility and the dancer seductive charm. In Papua New Guinea, body painting and decoration are still used in the magnificent parties held as part of the clan’s political competition. In Polynesia, tattooing was widespread, for example in the Marquesas Islands, Hawaii and the Maoris, and it was from here that the technique and name came to Europe. Tattoo and bastard (tapa) were precious things in the powerful Polynesian king and chief families and were understood as a kind of wrapping of people who were tapu, ie possessed divine power. Today, tattooing has gained a renaissance among Samoan immigrants and Maoris in New Zealand, for example in youth gangs and among New Traditionalists.

Souvenirs have been manufactured for sale to Europeans since about 1800, and tourism is the main reason why many items are made today, both traditional types such as canoeing in the Solomon Islands and new items such as storyboards in Papua New Guinea and Palau. A lot of new art, including painting, is also produced for local churches, public buildings and museums and often combines local and western motifs and techniques. The National Museum’s collections from Oceania from the two Galathea expeditions. See also sections on art under the individual place names.

To see a full list of airports in Australia, just visit Countryaah.com.

Country Literacy (percent) Literacy women (percent) Literacy men (percent) Literacy among young people (percent)
Marshall Islands 98.3 (2011) 98.2 (2011) 98.3 (2011) 98.5 (2011)
Micronesia Federation
New Zealand
Palau 96.6 (2015) 96.3 (2015) 96.8 (2015) 98.7 (2015)
Papua New Guinea 63.4 (2015) 62.0 (2015) 2 65.0 (2015) 67.9 (2010)
Solomon Islands 76.6 (1999) 69.0 (1999) 83.7 (1999)
Samoa 99.0 (2011) 99.1 (2011) 98.9 (2011) 99.2 (2011)
Tonga 99.4 (2011) 99.4 (2011) 99.3 (2011) 99.4 (2011)
Vanuatu 84.7 (2014) 83.2 (2014) 86.2 (2014) 95.3 (2014)

Art in Australia

The art of indigenous people

Australian Indigenous people have a long and diverse artistic tradition. Their art was first and foremost of a religious-ritual nature, where the creation of the artworks was also part of the ritual acts.

The different regions have their distinctive forms of expression. Tjurunga, sacred objects, mainly performed by the Aranda people of Central Australia, consist of flat stones or pieces of wood with engraved patterns. In Central Australia, elaborate body and head decorations of feathers, blood and ocher color were also performed. Maraiin figures from western Arnhemland in the Northern Territory are realistic and stylized carved animal figures. Commonly also carved wooden figures were both mythical and human, partly used in ritual contexts and partly as memorials to the dead. Paintings in ocher on bark flakes are most common in Arnhemland, but are also found in the Kimberley region and in southwestern Australia. These paintings were primarily used in initiation ceremonies. Distinctive are the bark paintings from western Arnhemland, a kind of “x-ray” that reproduces stylized animal and human figures where the viscera are visible.

Cave paintings and paintings and reliefs on stone are known from different parts of the country. Because such a small proportion of indigenous people today live in a traditional way, their cultural tradition must almost be considered dying, although in recent years the authorities have taken measures to counteract this development.

The art of white immigrants in the 19th century was strongly influenced by European, mainly British art.


British neo-classicism, Georgian style, combined with neo-Gothic elements, has long been the prevailing style of representation. The 20th century modern architecture gained a late entrance into Australia. The Opera House in Sydney, opened in 1973, designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, is the country’s most famous modern building and considered one of the 1900s major works. By recent Australian architects, Glenn Murcutt, who has been able to adapt impulses from European modernism to local conditions, has come to the fore, creating a distinct regional architecture. Murcutt is also influenced by local agricultural and industrial architecture.

Visual arts

Traditional landscape painting has long been dominant. In the 1890s, a local art nouveau style emerged, where motifs from the country’s flora and fauna were used in the ornament. The modern avant-garde movement gained little influence in Australian art before the 1930s, but in the period around the First World War there was a certain interest in post-Impressionist art among the students at Dattillo Rubbo’s (1871–1955) studio in Sydney. His students Roy de Maistre (1894–1968) and Roland Wakelin (1887–1971) experimented with the relationship between pure color and music, but met strong opposition, among others, from Max Meldrum (1875–1955), who advocated a theoretically grounded naturalism, and which had a dominant influence in Australian art until World War II.

During the 1940s, an Australian expressionism emerged that attracted attention even beyond its borders. Painters such as Russell Drysdale (1912–1981), Sidney Nolan (1917–1992) and Arthur Boyd (1920–1999) applied modern techniques in a unique way to reproduce Australian landscapes and Australian myths. After the war, a period of both neo-romantic and social-realist tendencies prevailed in Australian visual arts. In the 1950s, artists in Sydney under the leadership of John Olsen (born 1928) developed an abstract impressionism according to French examples, while Australian art in the post-war period has mostly drawn inspiration from American art, and followed the main international trends.

Australian sculpture has made little international mark, the sculptors have not, as the painters, benefited from the local traditions in their works; the result is a far more provincial development, where overseas examples have been followed. However, within the established styles, significant works have been created, for example, George Raynor Hoff’s (1894-1937) monumental sculpture in Hyde Park, Sydney, is considered a masterpiece in art deco sculpture.

Oceania Arts