My style comes out of the Aboriginal style. There are patterns that go down eons into the ground and they come up and show themselves; it’s not so much a geographical map, but a map of the patterns of the stories that sit underneath. of the patterns of the stories that sit underneath. So I use that to some degree, but I also use perspective, and while I will have that pattern look, there will still be sky. The process shifts backwards and forwards; that’s been a part of the process of learning about myself as an Aboriginal person and painting out of that.
Thus does Glenn Loughrey describe his art; not only his art, but the depth of thought that goes into each of his works.
How did he discover his talent for art? In 2012 Glenn had been to Borneo with students of a school where he was working. They had walked the Sandakan to Ranau Death March (on which 2345 Australians perished at the end of WWII, only six escapees surviving). He’d written some poetry for the walk organisers and was asked by them if he could do some sketches. Never having done a drawing in his life, Glenn did so and with some trepidation took them to the school Arts teacher. Her response was encouraging: “You should paint. I like your lines. Get a big piece of white canvas and start to fill it. And keep on doing that until you find your practice. And then, practise your practice”.
“And that’s what I did,” says Glenn. “Though what I did then is very different from what became my style. What I do now is a part of my discovery of art and my growing into my Aboriginality”.
He was a recent finalist in the richest art portrait prize in Australia – The Doug Moran Portrait Art Prize. His entry entitled Exile – A Self Portrait of the Artist as an Indigenous Man was selected as one of the 30 finalists out of almost 1200 entries Australia wide.
It is the story of Glenn, an indigenous man born into a family which, as a result of their history and the annihilation of Aboriginal people in and around Mudgee NSW, sought to assimilate into Australian society. The painting depicts the fear and anger of that place and the deep sense of isolation experienced on a day-to-day basis. Placed in the centre behind a screen is the face of the outsider who cannot walk at ease in the country of his ancestors or the country his family sought to become one with.
Aboriginal culture has a sense of what is called “Deep Listening” – just sitting on the ground and listening to what comes from it. Glenn explains: “As a farmer, my father used to tell me ‘Walk your country and it will tell you what it needs – what you need to do’. There is this deep sense of listening ‘down’, and what’s underneath spreads out as a whole story, as a pattern; those stories sit on each other. Unlike European thinking, with stories stacked upon each other in libraries/computer files etc., Aboriginal people think downward and outward; and that’s part of what I do”.
Passionate about sharing the Aboriginal experience in Australian culture, Glenn has recently submitted Caterpillars, Wild Dogs and Wide Open Space (see picture) to the Albany Art Prize to be held in April this year and is also preparing a new painting for the Telstra Aboriginal Awards. He has been the vicar at St Oswald’s Anglican Church, Glen Iris since 2015, and you can see more of his work hanging in the church.