A stunning collaborative Indigenous art exhibition on the outskirts of Geelong is showcasing the works of three Indigenous artists and the healing that comes from coastal waters.
Curated by independent arts studio Bells Fine Art, Saltwater Healing showcases the unique works of proud Nyul Nyul and Bardi man Lowell Hunter, and proud Gunditjmara Keerray Woorroong women Kelsey and Tarryn Love.
For sisters Kelsey and Tarryn, culture fills every part of their lives with a family full of artists and activists .
Their Aunty, artist Vicki Couzens, taught them through her art practise, and their grandfather Ivan Couzens was an important Gunditjmara leader who created a dictionary of the Keerray Woorroong language.
The Love sisters’ work is deeply rooted in the saltwater and coastal lands that their people come from.
“I use the lines in my work to represent the direction, current, flow and movement of water to express how everchanging and evolving it is,” said Kelsey.
“I see it as a metaphor for our own continuous learning, our appreciation for Country, culture and respect for our First Nations people as an infinite and evolving process.”
Tarryn’s work shares the story of Country as an archive of knowledge, honouring the connection Australia’s First Peoples have to land and place.
“First Nation peoples are the original storytellers and the original archivists of our knowledge. The songs of Country began and continue in the voices of its Custodians.”
“My responsibility is to access, engage, interpret, add and protect the stories of my culture and express this through my art. It is within these actions that we keep the songs alive,” she said.
The sisters are deeply passionate about their traditional language and hope to show that Keerray Woorroong language is still full of life.
The sisters title their works in language, using the dictionary their grandfather created.
Kelsey and Tarryn also share their multidisciplinary work on their Instagram, titled Koorroyarr Arts — Koorroyarr means granddaughter in Keerray Woorroong language.
Nyul Nyul and Bardi artist Lowell Hunter is a saltwater man. Though his Country is on the coast of Western Australia’s Kimberley region, Hunter grew up on Gunditjmara Country by the ocean in southwest Victoria.
“Gunditjmara people nurtured me in a lot of ways, particularly through my early teens and later in my teenage years as well,” Hunter told NIT.
“That allowed me to understand a lot about culture, how we interact with our culture, how we interact with our environment. So from that early age, I developed a really strong understanding of what it meant to be connected to Country.”
Hunter creates large-scale sand art on the beach using his feet and elements of traditional dance. His works can range between 40 and 100 metres, and are captured using drone photography, blending his works with the natural environment surrounding them.
For Hunter, his works are an expression of and a way to share culture, the stories of family, his identity as a saltwater man and his connection to culture.
Tarryn and Hunter have collaborated on one of the works on display, a sand art whale tail drone image that Tarryn has painted over with a story about her connection to Country and the whales that visit Gunditjmara Keerray Woorroong Country.
Hunter said it was an honour to exhibit with the Love sisters.
“We’re quite diverse in who we are and the type of art we do. But one thing I’m really pleased about is that I know their family, and to be exhibiting with Tarryn and Kelsey is a great opportunity and I’m honoured to be exhibiting with both of them.”
Belinda White, Studio Director of Bells Fine Art, said the exhibition artwork was created with a deeply sensitive connection to place and Country.
“As a curator of artwork, I see this work as an extremely important learning opportunity for us all, where art gives us a platform for communicating Indigenous content and for creating respectful and genuine opportunities for greater understanding of our First Nations people,” she said.
The Saltwater Healing exhibition is now showing at Provenance Wines in Fyansford, Victoria and runs until May 16 2021.
By Sarah Smit