Garry Purchase is a multi-award winning Dharawal/Dunghutti Australian Aboriginal artist who I've been following on Instagram for some time because his artwork is extraordinary. I reached out to Garry to ask if I could share his work and story with Sydney Chic readers, and the following is a result of that. You can read more about Garry on his website here it truly is an inspiration.
When did you first become interested in art?
I’ve always had a love for creation, be that music or art. I loved drawing as a child, but it was overshadowed by my rebellious teenage years. I was already playing drums for different metal bands in the Sydney pubs and clubs at 15 or 16 and spent most of the 1990’s and early 2000’s living that wild life. It wasn’t until 2013 after recently moving to the central coast that on a whim I visited the Gosford Regional Gallery when I happened to walk through “Reconciliation Exhibition” which was an Aboriginal exhibition and competition. It woke something in me, not only in art, but as an Aboriginal man who had drifted away from my roots and I realised I needed to reconnect to my culture and find myself again, not just for me but my kids too. I left there and went straight to an art shop and began my journey in art. I entered the competition the next year and somehow took first prize.
Where did you learn your skills?
I’m completely self taught. All the techniques and skills I have are the result of experimentation, a plethora of trial and error and just finding what works for me. It’s a never ending process of acquiring new knowledge and techniques. The cultural side of it comes my family, the Timberys. A well known, prominent and proud Aboriginal family from La Perouse.
Who is your inspiration?
My biggest influence over everything is my father who I lost when I was 21. He was the strongest person I’ve ever known. He worked ridiculously hard and sacrificed a hell of a lot to make sure we were always put first and had what we needed. As a white man he was ostracised by his own family for being with my mother who is Aboriginal. I guess in the pre- referendum 1960’s that sort of thing was taboo. I still don’t know any of them even though I carry their last name. I’m a Timbery at heart. They could walk past me in the street and I’d be none the wiser. He instilled a hell of a lot of values in me about family, pride, standing up for myself and that I could do anything.
From a purely artistic view I have many and I’m constantly learning and exploring as I go, but there are a main few that definitely have influenced me.
Vincent Van Gogh. A massive influence in composition and approach for me. His bold brushstrokes and the effect they create have had a huge impact on how I think about my dot work technique and motif. It changed how a painting is built up visually for me.
Jandamarra Cadd. An insanely talented artist. The absolute king of dot work to me. Completely changed the way I thought about Aboriginal Art and what it can be.
Nathan Patterson. To me, colour choice makes or breaks a painting. You can have a technically brilliant painting, but if the colours clash or just aren’t right, It just brings the whole thing down. His colour choice is always spot on. Every single painting of his is colourful, vibrant and “pops”. He just knows what colours work with each other and his subtle choices within a palate have a huge visual impact on the piece as a whole. So yeah... I always think about colour choice because of him.
Ralph McQuarrie. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a massive Star Wars nerd. Ralph was the conceptual artist that had the enormous job of visually creating the worlds and creatures of George Lucas’ crazy vision. He had to create things that didn’t exist and for me, that is what I strive for. I want to keep learning, experimenting and trying new things to push myself and my work further and further. We all know what Aboriginal art is in terms of its importance to culture and its traditional use and I love that very deeply. There’s also the other side of the coin as an Aboriginal man to express myself in the here and now and tell my own story in the 21st Century. So like Ralph, I want to create new things and techniques and push it as far as I can.
Do you see a vision in your mind first before you paint or does the painting usually evolve?
The creative process for me begins usually a random flash of inspiration. I could be anywhere doing anything at any time when a vision or concept strikes. From that point I try to refine it in my head to a place where I’m comfortable to start painting, but from there it grows organically and the ideas and concepts change as a piece develops. I’m notorious for getting 80 to 90% into a painting when a sudden idea will change my mind and have to redo either large sections or sometimes the whole thing. It’s frustrating, but the compulsion is so strong can’t leave it alone and I have to do it.
What’s your favourite community project?
My favourite community project that I’ve been a part of was the restoration of the 40,000 years mural on the rail bridge outside Redfern Station. That mural is iconic amongst the Aboriginal community and I used to go past it regularly as a kid. I was only there briefly, but I’m proud to be able to say I left my mark and did my part on it.
What awards have you won?
Awards are nice, but it’s certainly not why I paint. The only critic that matters for my art is me. I just paint for myself and have been very lucky to pick up a few awards along the way. I’ve won the Central Coast's biggest Aboriginal art competition, Reconciliation Exhibition. I took out the Tony Donovan Award first prize in 2014 and 2016 I’ve also won the Aboriginal Health Award in 2013, 2016, 2017 and also The People’s Choice Award in 2013 at the annual Mental Health Art Works Exhibition held at Gosford Regional Gallery.
Tell me about your latest exhibition?
My upcoming exhibition is my very first major solo outing called “Tales Of A Modern Blackfulla”. I will be showcasing a brand new collection of works that are inspired by my childhood, life experiences and give insight to my thoughts and feelings as an Aboriginal man here and now in today’s age. It will be showing at Gosford Regional Gallery from November 9 until December 15.
What message do you have for young Australians?
Believe in yourself. My parents always encouraged me and I always remind my kids that they can be anything in this world. No dream is too big if you’re willing to chase it.