• What Paul McCann's artwork looks like on the Weet-Bix packet. (Paul McCann)Source: Paul McCann
Artist Paul McCann has chosen to reflect the 'land and earth of the Northern Territory' in his creation for the Weet-Bix/Reach Out initiative.
Kate Eastoe

27 Apr 2016 - 12:37 PM  UPDATED 27 Apr 2016 - 12:45 PM

The Weet-Bix  ‘How Do You Do Yours’ project has commissioned 13 Australian artists to produce a one-off design on a Weet-Bix carton as part of a collaborative fundraiser for youth organisation Reach Out.

Paul McCann’s design, entitled ‘Home’ incorporates the symbolism and imagery of his birthplace in the Daly River area, Northern Territory, where he is a traditional land owner.

Watching his family tell their stories through painting has inspired Paul to continue their traditions while adding his own style. The geometric patterning used in Paul’s work is his own modern take on the painting techniques of his heritage.

Staying true to his style 

"When I first received the carton, I sat back and looked at it for about a week, not sure where to start," said McCann, who is used to painting with much larger canvasses.

"I needed to find a way to stay true to my style but on a smaller scale."

He decided that he wanted his piece for the Reach Out fundraiser to represent the landscape of his childhood.

The brown palette of patterns represents the land and earth of the Northern Territory, walked by the Marrithiyel.

"I chose to do the Kangaroos in gold, because it represents the cultural richness of my people". 

The green and blue of the painting not only represents the physical presence of water and plant life, but is also a nod to the Torres Strait Islander people and their cultural connections.

Having grown up in the NT, Paul moved to Melbourne five years ago to pursue his passion for painting.

"I’m from a walkabout culture; I felt I needed to find my own place, I headed for Melbourne because, for me, it is the art capital of Australia."

 'Spreading the healing qualities of painting'

When he arrived in Melbourne, Paul became an Indigenous Prison Officer to get a feel for the judicial system. After two years in the role, he felt that he could provide more help to the young Indigenous people in the system in a different role.

He transitioned into an Aboriginal Wellbeing Officer’s role, and is now working with Indigenous youth in twelve prisons across Victoria, spreading what he sees as the healing qualities of painting.

"In a prison setting, a young person’s only connection to their culture is through art," Paul says.

He provides the youth with booklets detailing the totems, stories and practices from their regions, helping them learn about their heritage and translate it into painting.

Paul also works as an Art Officer with Victorian organisation, The Torch, who provide a forum for cultural exploration for the incarcerated and help participants find a new way forward on their return to community. 

The project is growing every year, and hopes to expand their rehabilitation success to other Australian states.

"Last year our exhibit, 'Confined 6', had 88 participants. This year’s exhibit, 'Confined 7', showcases 147 works by our Indigenous artists", said Paul.

Recently Indigenous artists have been given the ability to sell their artwork through The Torch and its exhibitions, allowing them to experience legitimate self-generated income, which Paul hopes will help them to move on with their lives.

Those participating in the program are also given opportunities to be involved with curating and presenting the exhibition, including public speaking, contact with media and opening night planning, all skills which will assist them in their future paths.

"I am very proud to be involved with this great project for Reach Out," says Paul of his commission for the ebay charity auction, which concludes on Friday April 29, 2016.