Oceanic Art

 

1500 – 1615

The native peoples of the Pacific Islands from Hawaii and the Easter Islands all the way to Australia were great artisans and their works are referred to as Oceanic Art.

Locations include Hawaii, The Easter Islands, Polynesia, New Zealand, and Australia and these are divided into four regions. Because the locations are so varied and each has differing cultures in time, the artwork created by these disparate people varies in style and execution. The overarching themes, however, include a bent toward the supernatural, fertility, ritual, and religion.

Oceanic mediums were myriad as well and included carving in stone and wood, painted and carved petroglyphs, tattooing, and textiles.

Oceanic Art Origins and Historical Importance:

The islands of Oceania were first peopled by the Australoid people in New Guinea and Australia, giving birth to the Melanesians and Aborigines around 60,000 years ago. The next immigration was from Southeast Asia, 30,000 years later.

Oceanic Art- Kii-Hulu Manu – Hawaii

Oceanic Art- Kii-Hulu Manu – Hawaii

These two groups spread throughout Oceania increasing the population and establishing alliances and trading networks. Eventually, the Lapita Culture, of around 1500 BC, completed the populating of the more remote islands.

The oldest and important art in Oceania is that of the Australian Aboriginals and consists of rock art and petroglyphs that record mysteries of the Dream Time, a mystery idea based on religion and the mystical nature of there being no real-time. Australians also painted on panel and on boomerangs, specifically in geometric patterns or in dot painting, a style specific to their culture.

“There is something hallucinating in Oceanic art. It fascinates me, I think, although I also like the depths of Africa and the powerful objects that come from there. It’s the vocabulary of Oceanic art that for me is truly compelling.” – Berend Hoekstra

Micronesia’s greatest achievement was the floating city of Nan Madol. This megalithic city was built over a period of 400 years as a network of artificial islands and canals built in a lagoon. Micronesia also produced great carvers that built exquisite homes for ceremonial purposes, vessels, canoes, and figures. Women of the region fashioned jewelry, headbands, and textiles.

Micronesia’s art is characteristic of quality rather than decoration.

Using minimal mediums, they created with what they had, but they did it to the highest level of craftsmanship.

Easter Island’s Moai statues are, of course, the most famous example of art and sculpture in Polynesia. These megalithic statues are of giant stone heads on smaller bodies that are representations of the deified dead. Much of the art of the Polynesian people are supernaturally inspired and in fact, the people once believed that certain artworks were inhabited by spirits that had an influence on world events. When Christianity came to the islands sculpture declined greatly as a result as the former beliefs of its magical nature were no longer upheld. They did continue however to work on a smaller scale in secular art such as textiles like tapa, and kava bowl carving.

Oceanic Art - Ceremonial Board – Papa New Guinea

Oceanic Art – Ceremonial Board – Papa New Guinea

Melanesian art is the most vivid and ornate of Oceanic art and delves into subjects not as often seen in other cultures such as those of a sexual nature or cannibalism. Using distorted, elongated line and crowded design in arresting colors, the Melanesian style is bold and unafraid. They use their art, particularly body art and ceremonial masks, in a religious ritual. Themes of decoration and sculpture include sex and cannibalism as mentioned before and also hunting and the deceased. Masks and figures show exaggerated expression. Tattoos are often beautifully intricate in design and are comprised of harmonious geometric compositions.

Oceanic Art Key Highlights:

  • The Lapita were known for creating geometric and anthropomorphic designs on ceramic art using a comb-like tool to stamp clay repeatedly to create a pattern.
  • The Oceanic peoples did not think of their creations as art, but rather put great effort and decoration into ceremonial and ritual objects.
  • In addition to tattooing, face painting is very popular, especially amongst Melanesians.
  • Scholars believe that the large heads of Polynesian sculptures indicate that they thought the head was the area housing the personality.
  • The Sulka people of New Britain have an agricultural fertility ritual that bridges gaps between supernatural, visual, and performance art. Huge bamboo and bone marrow masks are believed to have indwelling spirits that come to life on certain days and they are carried about infertile orchards by naked bodies painted red that dance to rhythmic ritual movement to release the fertility of the orchard.
  • The Maori of New Zealand also practice tattooing and are dedicated to a chief obsession with curvilinear spiraling. They also use similar complex curvilinear patterns on doors, canoes, and any other carved surface.
  • The great stone sculptures of Easter Island were incredibly carved in a period of fewer than 4 weeks each and were carried from the quarry by hundreds of men and women. Five hundred were carved and many remain in the quarry having never reached their altars.

Oceanic Art Top Works:

  • Moai at Rano Raraku (Easter Island)
  • Split Gong Figures from Vanautu
  • Rock Paintings – Namadgi National Park Australia
  • Ceremonial Board – Papa New Guinea
  • Nan Madol
  • Kii-Hulu Manu – Hawaii

Art History Movements (Order by the period of origin)

Dawn of Man – BC 10

Paleolithic Art (Dawn of Man – 10,000 BC), Neolithic Art (8000 BC – 500 AD), Egyptian Art (3000 BC - 100 AD), Ancient Near Eastern Art (Neolithic era – 651 BC),  Bronze and Iron Age Art (3000 BC – Debated), Aegean Art (2800-100 BC), Archaic Greek Art (660-480 BC), Classical Greek Art (480-323 BC ), Hellenistic Art (323 BC – 27 BC), Etruscan Art (700 - 90 BC)

1st Century to 10th Century

Roman Art (500 BC – 500 AD), Celtic Art. Parthian and Sassanian Art (247 BC – 600 AD), Steppe Art (9000BC – 100 AD), Indian Art (3000 BC - current), Southeast Asian Art (2200 BC - Present), Chinese and Korean Art,  Japanese Art (11000 BC – Present),  Early Christian Art (260-525 AD,  Byzantine Art (330 – 1453 AD), Irish Art (3300 BC - Present), Anglo Saxon Art (450 – 1066 AD), Viking Art (780 AD-1100AD), Islamic Art (600 AD-Present)

10thCentury to 15th Century

Pre Columbian Art (13,000 BC – 1500 AD), North American Indian and Inuit Art (4000 BC - Present), African Art (),  Oceanic Art (1500 – 1615 AD), Carolingian Art (780-900 AD), Ottonian Art (900 -1050 AD), Romanesque Art (1000 AD – 1150 AD), Gothic Art (1100 – 1600 AD), The survival of Antiquity ()

Art History - 15th century onwards

Renaissance Style (1300-1700), The Northern Renaissance (1500 - 1615), Mannerism (1520 – 17th Century), The Baroque (1600-1700), The Rococo (1600-1700), Neo Classicism (1720 - 1830),  Romanticism (1790 -1890), Realism (1848 - Present), Impressionism (1860 - 1895), Post-Impressionism (1886 - 1904), Symbolism and Art Nouveau (1880 -1910), Fauvism , Expressionism (1898 - 1920), Cubism  . Futurism (1907-1928 )Abstract Art (1907 – Present Day), Dadasim,. Surrealism (1916 - 1970),. Latin American Art (1492 - Present, Modern American Art (1520 – 17th Century), Postwar European Art (1945 - 1970), Australian Art (28,000 BC - Present), South African Art (98,000 BC - Present)

The Most Loved Art Stories by Our Readers

 

Oceanic Art  – Major Artworks

Art History Movements (Order by the period of origin)

Dawn of Man – BC 10

Paleolithic Art (Dawn of Man – 10,000 BC), Neolithic Art (8000 BC – 500 AD), Egyptian Art (3000 BC - 100 AD), Ancient Near Eastern Art (Neolithic era – 651 BC),  Bronze and Iron Age Art (3000 BC – Debated), Aegean Art (2800-100 BC), Archaic Greek Art (660-480 BC), Classical Greek Art (480-323 BC ), Hellenistic Art (323 BC – 27 BC), Etruscan Art (700 - 90 BC)

1st Century to 10th Century

Roman Art (500 BC – 500 AD), Celtic Art. Parthian and Sassanian Art (247 BC – 600 AD), Steppe Art (9000BC – 100 AD), Indian Art (3000 BC - current), Southeast Asian Art (2200 BC - Present), Chinese and Korean Art,  Japanese Art (11000 BC – Present),  Early Christian Art (260-525 AD,  Byzantine Art (330 – 1453 AD), Irish Art (3300 BC - Present), Anglo Saxon Art (450 – 1066 AD), Viking Art (780 AD-1100AD), Islamic Art (600 AD-Present)

10thCentury to 15th Century

Pre Columbian Art (13,000 BC – 1500 AD), North American Indian and Inuit Art (4000 BC - Present), African Art (),  Oceanic Art (1500 – 1615 AD), Carolingian Art (780-900 AD), Ottonian Art (900 -1050 AD), Romanesque Art (1000 AD – 1150 AD), Gothic Art (1100 – 1600 AD), The survival of Antiquity ()

Art History - 15th century onwards

Renaissance Style (1300-1700), The Northern Renaissance (1500 - 1615), Mannerism (1520 – 17th Century), The Baroque (1600-1700), The Rococo (1600-1700), Neo Classicism (1720 - 1830),  Romanticism (1790 -1890), Realism (1848 - Present), Impressionism (1860 - 1895), Post-Impressionism (1886 - 1904), Symbolism and Art Nouveau (1880 -1910), Fauvism , Expressionism (1898 - 1920), Cubism  . Futurism (1907-1928 )Abstract Art (1907 – Present Day), Dadasim,. Surrealism (1916 - 1970),. Latin American Art (1492 - Present, Modern American Art (1520 – 17th Century), Postwar European Art (1945 - 1970), Australian Art (28,000 BC - Present), South African Art (98,000 BC - Present)