Guest Post – The Hidden Garden by Michelle O’Hara

Travis: I’ve really struggled recently. After a year of build up, working on new projects; Broriginals, The Hidden Garden, etc. A little over a month ago I opened the exhibition that I had been putting so much energy into. The opening night was great; friends and loved ones all there to see the work, but after that big high and build up of pressure everything kinda fell flat. Personally I just felt drained.

I struggled to get reviewers to come and see the show. I mean it is 15 minutes north of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, no arts person would be crazy enough to journey that far! What I really wanted though was to have someone come in with an Indigenous perspective, to see the work and talk about it in a non-artsy way. joined_video_43cce878dfe14759a823a9e0cdd6a9e4_std.original

I reached out to my blak writers connections and was delighted to be contacted by Michelle O’Hara. I invited Michelle to come see the show, she did, we sat and talked through my intention with the work and some her initial thoughts and then Michelle went away and wrote about it. Here it is:

This exhibition is a journey into another world, another place and another time. It is the telling of a story done through so many different mediums that the viewer is offered the rare luxury of simply slowly wandering through, opening up and taking it all in.

The experience of doing this provides such a rich emmersion of colour, sound and story into all the senses that one is given the pleasure of being almost completely lazy while the artist does the work of making this interesting and fascinating story come to life.
It is a story about a black Adam and Eve, a mythological dance around an idea of them being alive here in the Dreamtime, playing out the familiar fable before colonialism, before invasion. Back when our creation stories were being written as well.
The artist cleverly intertwines elements of the two mythologies, taking us on a dramatic journey through the telling of this story. It begins with setting the scene for the process of initiation for the young boys to go off and become men.
The character depicted in one painting is done in a contemporary style, an interesting fusion with the traditional storytelling style and the hanging installations which look traditional with their woven style and natural fibres. IMG_7872
At this point it starts to feel like a merging of realities through a cultural crossover in some sort of time capsule. I start to imagine that even the shape of the hanging installations look like some kind of 3D message stick that is in fact a time transporter.
The exhibition is very effective in stimulating the imagination, as it provides such strong sensory stimulation. Contemporary art ideas are always dancing with fantasy, culture and myth.
In the Hidden Garden, Eve rejects Adam and crushes his face with a rock.
In a drawing which follows the dramatic crescendo of this part of the story,  two birds are seen flying into the distance as Adam flees the scene. The simplicity of this image punctuates the point perfectly.
A haunting and beautiful soundscape escorts us through a myriad of images ranging from paintings and drawings, through to installations, sculptures, prints and video footage. Linking them all together is the written storyboard, unfolding piece by piece as we follow the works around the gallery.
IMG_7907The art is bold and brave, making no apologies for the challenge it throws out to Christianity by questioning it’s authenticity.
The story itself captivates and the installations are rich, green and beautiful in their representation of the garden.
Travis De Vries is a contemporary Aboriginal artist from the Gamilaroi nation. The techniques he has employed to tell this story are of an incredibly high standard, creating a rich feast for the senses as they digest each portion of the meal. He cleverly plants the exciting and challenging ideas into our mind that maybe the whole mythology itself could be rearranged. Biame could have been watching as all this played out… And why not?
Such a huge amount of work has gone into this show, and it is a pleasure to walk around and witness this artist’s commitment to the successful implementation of an idea.

A huge thanks to Michelle for taking the time to get across to see the work and for sharing her thoughts with me.

The Hidden Garden runs at Gallery Lane Cove till Saturday 29th of June and then opens at Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre on the 6th of July.


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