Connection To Country

By Anna Dowd

On the eve of his much anticipated solo exhibition Tradigital, Gumbaynggirr artist Brentyn Lugnan shares what drives him to create.

It’s when I feel most connected to who I am.”

“My family are the Kellys, and Urunga and Bellingen Valley all the way through to Dorrigo, they are our traditional lands.

“Almost all my paintings, public sculptures and designs have been about connection to country, linking into my ancestors, acknowledging and boosting their spirits.”

Lugnan’s work combines this knowledge system with influences from animation, to street art.

“I’ve worked in TV production at SBS, animation at the ABC and I grew up in surf board culture, so I’ve got this very graphic-y, logo-esque way of looking at things,” he says.

“I take all those traditional aspects of representing family and connection to country and give them a modern twist, using  modern materials to explore that.”

For Lugnan, context is important, and he sees his art as part of a contemporary cultural renaissance in the region.

“Because of the richness of the land and the timber around here my ancestors were basically decimated.

“We lost eighty odd percent of our people back then due to the massacres and almost all our knowledge holders and cultural practitioners.”

“So now there’s a reclamation and a reinvention of a style happening, of the Gumbaynggirr way of looking at the world.”

“Most of my elders come from generations who didn’t discuss their Aboriginality at all. A philosophy of ‘don’t stick your head up and no one can hit you with a stick.’

“So to be part of this resurgence of our culture around here is a blessing.”

If you live on the Mid North Coast it’s likely you’ve already encountered Lugnan’s unique work in Coffs Harbour and surrounds. 

His CV includes designs throughout the court house, a large scale sculpture at the Jetty foreshore, and murals at the Coffs showgrounds and Urunga neighbourhood centre.

But whether it’s murals or carpet designs, he says the thread running through his work as connection.

“My family’s connection, my ancestors ancient connection to this place.

“This is just what Gumbaynggirr people have expressed since day dot through our art, though our song, through our dance.

“In this way, contemporary Gumbaynggirr art is just a continuation of what has come before.”

When | 21 Aug – 17 Oct Where | Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery. Tues + Sat only. Please check website as open hours will change if restrictions ease. www.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au

Brentyn Lugnan in studio_ Image credit _National Aboriginal Design A