For Those Who Came in Late..

by John posted June 25, 2017 category Art / Design, Culture, History, Illustration, Work
Snake by John T. Patten

Snake by John T. Patten

It’s been an age and a day since my last post. Here’s what’s been happening over the last year plus.

In August 2016, I took on the Manager’s role for Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum. For a range of reasons over the full first year I continued to down my old job as Senior Programs Officer, whilst also managing the centre and unofficially taking on the responsibilities of Senior Project Officer, in the development and implementation of exhibitions. The latter was a valuable learning tool for when I was able to go out and hire the new permanent Project Officer, providing me with a stronger understanding of the requirements for managing the position. So, three jobs, or two and a half perhaps, given that I outsourced curatorial partnerships, choosing to bring in people who I could learn from and for whom that was their bread and butter.

With the added responsibility and time requirements at work, I’ve been inclined to relax more during my weekends and holidays. Thus, my artwork hasn’t been as strong a focus over the past year. So far I’ve exhibited only once, over December 2016 / January 2017. However, I do have plans for producing some more works for around the same time in 2017/18.

I’ve also worked on one other significant art project during the last 18 months, being the development of an animation, in partnership with my favourite collaborator, the very talented animator Isobel Knowles. Together, along with narration from Uncle Herb Patten, we retold the story of Tiddalik, based on my 2011 interpretation of the Creation Story. A massive project, it required that I draw the majority of the character illustrations and backgrounds, with Isobel handling all of the actual animation (the hard yakka). For my part it meant producing several versions of each animal character. Frontal, three quarter, side-on and any other peculiar poses. Then, each illustration was broken up – so that meant illustrating each individual body part separately. Each eye, head, mandible, ear, eyebrow, tongue etc. It was a tiring process, but seeing the final product and how Isobel then animated the resulting 2D puppets was a big moment.

Below I’ve linked an interview I did with Kinderling Kids Radio, highlighting the Tiddalik experience at the Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery at Melbourne Museum.

Despite stepping back from fine art for a while, I’ve not entirely removed myself from a creative sphere. There are a number of projects broiling in the background. One that came to fruition is a merchandising agreement, based on my illustrations of animals, designed with Koori motifs. This includes a dinner set for small children, based on my old Tiddalik the Frog illustrations.

OK, so what else? Last year I began documenting bits and pieces of cultural knowledge via the production of a website called The site was produced partly in response to some common misrepresentations of Koori culture, including the idea that Koori people were traditionally nomadic, that we had no forms of agriculture or aquaculture and that we didn’t wear clothing. Very basic stuff that schools aren’t equipped with appropriate resources to enable them to step away from, as they are stuck with history books which are based on the misrepresentations of culture borne of collected cultural notes from farmers and squatters.

I don’t dedicate enough time to it, but every once and a while I upload another article or two to ranging in subject matter from cultural organisation and political history, to ethnobotany, family history and book reviews. The site will slowly grow and I’ve currently got plans for introducing some video presentations. I’ve also a number of unfinished articles which I began with the intent to write as maybe 2-3 pagers, however the content has in some cases turned into a book chapter or more. How I might present that online I’m still working on, but it may be why I turn to video sooner rather than later.

Travel is also a big factor this year. I’m currently gearing up for a trip to the US and Canada in July-August, followed by the Middle East in October and Far Northern NSW in January. I’ll write more on those once each has come to pass.

There’s also this. A campaign by Siemens, which tells the story of how their technology enables sustainability practices at Museums Victoria. Enjoy!

There’s probably a lot more, but that’s enough reminiscing for now.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *