Culture flows through Tarryn’s creative expression
To explore the creative journey of Tarryn Love is to paint a much bigger and more meaningful picture than a girl who grew up loving to draw and create.
For this proud young Gunditjmara woman, every waxy stitch threaded into a possum skin cloak and every flowing line brushed onto a canvas is a link to her culture.
Tarryn’s artistic expression comes from a place beyond the personal.
It is creative talent intertwined with deep connections to family, elders and ancestors, and to Country.
“Sometimes I think of my work as a direct bloodline back to Country because I think that is where a lot of it comes from,” she explains.
“The shapes or the linework or the narratives that I think about, a lot of it is drawn from the shapes of Gunditjmara Country.
“The way Hopkins Falls travels across Country, the way koontapool (whales) go through Country or the kooyang (eel).
“There are lots of stories that at different stages of your life can sit with you and they become important and they come through your work.”
Tarrryn, who grew up on Wadawurrung Country, says her family has hugely influenced her arts practice.
In her childhood home she was surrounded by objects painted by uncles and great-uncles and she learned the stories of why they were there, how they were painted and who made them.
Her own work explores a variety of mediums including weaving with flax, wood burning, painting, metal work, possum skin cloaks and more recently digital art.
“I pay a lot of respect to my family and people before me and acknowledge that if wasn’t for the work they’ve done and the struggles they have gone through, I wouldn’t be able to do anything that I do now.
“A lot of my arts practice is Gunditjmara cultural practice that I am privileged enough to be able to express through an arts practice.
“I think it is important to acknowledge it started a lot longer – way back – before I was even here.
“A lot of my work draws on my ancestors and I also like the term of ancestors as living ancestors.
“Like me and my mum and my sister and my aunty – we are living ancestors and we are carrying on the work of all those people before us and thinking about all the people to come after us.”
Her aunty, accomplished interdisciplinary artist Vicki Couzens, has been someone Tarryn looks up to.
“When I talk to my Aunty Vic now she says ‘I’m not an artist, I don’t create artwork’ – she labels it as creative cultural expression because she understands that the work she does is more important than a physical art piece,” she says.
Language is also at the heart of Tarryn’s work.
“Keerray Woorroong is my family’s mother tongue and my ngapoon, which is my grandpa (Gunditjmara Elder Ivan Couzens), wrote a dictionary before he passed and had a lot of help with community in doing that.
“If it wasn’t for him, we would have no speakers of Keerray Woorroong so through my artwork using language and trying to revive and reinvigorate that and bringing it into everyday use is really important to me.”
Last year Tarryn was studying full-time at The University of Melbourne in her first year of a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Indigenous Studies.
But opportunities presented themselves in 2022 which saw her drop back to part-time study to co-curate an exhibition, Still Here, Now with Platform Arts, and pursue other exciting projects.
The most recent of those is the redevelopment of Geelong Arts Centre and Tarryn is one of four First Nations people chosen to contribute their creative work to the project.
The artworks will embed First Peoples’ culture and storytelling in the fabric and experience of the new building, and will come to life when the transformed Geelong Arts Centre is complete in 2023.
Tarryn’s contribution, Yoowak, meaning “night or the night sky”, will encompass three levels of the theatre.
“We really wanted the theatre to be wrapped in my artwork so it felt like you were immersed in the night sky and you can think deeply about the levels and the layers and what layer you might be sitting on,” she says.
The upper level represents the constellations in the night sky – kakatheerreeng, meenkeel and wootyook – the second level is the Milky Way – tanteen tyamoorn – and the bottom layer is alam meen, representing the ancestors wrapped in their possum skin cloaks.
“I’m going to be quite blown away to see it and I really hope that when other people come into the space they are blown away by it and it really makes them think about why it was put in that space, who it was made for and the deeper meaning behind the artwork and what is its context in this theatre on Wadawurrung Country.
“I create my artwork for me, my family and for other mob so I particularly hope for other younger First Nations mob when they come to the space, they see that the space was made for them, that it’s there to ensure their futures in that space and they can do that too.
“When you are growing up you have to see it to believe it … for them to be like ‘I can do that too’ – that’s the aim, I guess.”
Discover more about Tarryn Love by following @koorroyarr on Instagram.