• A 'contemporary artist in a contemporary world, but telling traditional stories': Josh Muir. Picture: MAGNT/Fiona Morrison (Supplied)Source: Supplied
From an overdose at 15, to having his work featured on the façade of the NGV. Josh Muir knows first hand the healing power of art, and has high hopes that his 'Still Here' artwork can achieve some of that.
By
Nakari Thorpe, Presented by
NITV News

17 Feb 2016 - 4:31 PM  UPDATED 19 Feb 2016 - 9:00 AM

"I feel on top of the moon,” says Indigenous artist Josh Muir.

At 24, he’s been offered the entire façade of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) as his canvas.

“When I was asked, I was really overwhelmed. I’m really excited and pumped for it. I’ve harnessed all that energy and came up with an idea to execute it. It’s the best project I’ve worked on,” Josh told NITV.

A Yorta Yorta/Gunditjmara man from Ballarat, his work titled ‘Still Here’, tells the story of Aboriginal Victorians, before and after colonisation. A story rarely told.

“It’s always been NSW with Captain Cook and Botany Bay. It’s a big story, European settlement and its impacts on Aboriginal people. We copped the full brunt,” he said.

Growing up in country Victoria, Josh experienced a great deal of racism.

“My first experience was at school and someone called me a nigger, I didn’t know how to take it, I got real shame and started crying. I was a good student, it was the start of being a target,” he remembers.

Struggling with racism, and a sense of belonging in the small town, Josh turned to marijuana and ecstasy to escape. He was 15 when he overdosed for the first time. 

“I got curious one day and decided I was going to try and see what it was all about. I didn’t know what I was feeling, but it was a good feeling at the time. I thought if I keep doing this I can escape reality.” 

But he turned his life around and discovered art as a way to cope. 

“I used art as a way of healing my pain, and to express myself. My mental health deteriorated. I thought if I keep going down this path I won’t be able to enjoy life. So I reached out and got support”.  And he hasn’t looked back.

Since winning the Telstra Youth Award in 2015 his career has taken off.

He debuted his first solo exhibition last year selling 80 percent of his artwork, and soon after scored the NGV gig.

“It’s a big platform. I’ve thought about it really well and how it would be portrayed. And to see it transformed with animation, sound and composition, I’m blown away,” he says. 

Josh’s work will feature as part of White Night Melbourne, an urban adventure of culture and creativity showcasing art, film, music, food and light.

The event will also feature other prominent Indigenous artists like internationally acclaimed Reko Rennie whose geometric shapes will be projected onto Melbourne’s Federation Square.

A special Welcome to Country ceremony, Balit Ngulu (meaning Strong Voices), by the Illbijerri Theatre Company will open the event.

And Indigenous acts Thelma Plum, Briggs, and Emma Donovan & The Putbacks, will perform in separate events across the city.

Josh describes himself as a "contemporary artist in a contemporary world, but telling traditional stories". For him that is the ultimate. 

"It’s like sitting around the campfire”.

"My artwork is fun, colourful. It’s the type of stuff you can look at things you never seen the first time. Colour brings joy to the world. I love strong stories that can go along with that.

“I want people to come along and heal and acknowledge, and be inspired.” 

And he hopes his work will motivate others.

“I use these opportunities to see an outcome, a better future for Aboriginal people. Dedicate yourself to what you love and all these other great things will come”

White Night Melbourne runs from 7.00pm – 7.00am this Saturday 20 February 2016. Check out the full program here.