The Sakrifyce Bigyns – and All That Remaynes:
The story of artist Travis De Vries’ Lost Tales exhibition
“Ten minutes into the drive – I had two broken paintings”…
Peter Maple Talks with Travis De Vries
WHO are you?
I’m Travis De Vries, I am what I do and what I’m interested in.
I’m a level 6 monk who follows the way of the dancing palm.
I’m definitely a blue mage.
WHAT are you?
I’m an artist, a writer, a musician, a dancer, a gamer, a creator.
I don’t confine myself to working in any one discipline, rather, I use all of my various skills, craft and expertise, and choose which one will best fit the concept or project I’m working on. Or maybe it chooses itself…
WHY are you?
I started drawing at a very young age. Likely at the kitchen table. And I never stopped.
I remember I found my Dad’s collection of fantasy novels when I was pretty young – maybe 7 or 8 years of age. And I’ve firmly had my head in a book ever since.
I used to stay up late at night reading Tolkien, Ursula le Guin, Roger Zelazny – and I would terrify myself. And I would love it.
I’ve always felt like there is this other magical world, right here, right now – always, and most of us just don’t know it – don’t know how to access it.
I continue this passion in my work. In terms of art, I think I just simply begun observing people, and the world around me, and found that I wanted to say something.
Sometimes it can be just a comment, something about a relationship I have with someone, and sometimes it is bigger – much bigger. But I’m not an activist or a protestor – I don’t believe that I personally can change the world that way. What I can do, hopefully, is plant the seed of an idea, in my creative work, and have a connection – a very real and ‘intimate’ on – with someone, that way.
Who are WE?
We share a strange connection.
What are WE?
We are observers. All ‘professional appreciators’. Some of us also (choose to) put some Creative out into the world.
Why are WE?
Because, what would we be, without doing what we do? All of us. And if not – why not?
You have your exhibition currently showing, Lost Tales: Walking with Gods – “A collection of Indigenous Contemporary artwork exploring a modern application of folk tales, particularly those involving the gods, demons and creatures from Australian Indigenous lore. The concept is the melting pot of ideas between western mythologies and Aboriginal spirituality, a relatively new combination when placed against the 40,000+ years of Australian cultural history.”
What does it take, logistically, emotionally, psychologically, to mount an exhibition?
It’s not as hard as you think it is. Or it’s never as easy as you think it is!
It can be emotionally and physically draining. And it can also be the most rewarding process to go through.
I find when I’m putting an exhibition together, I tend to isolate myself from the rest of the world, a lot. I get very internal. I go to a bit of a dark place. And then I need to journey out of that place, to get (any necessary) feedback from those closest to me. That is super important.
I think I’m probably really hard to be around when I’m in my creative process. I kinda oscillate, and go from being completely unapproachable, to being entirely needy and searching for approval.
Hopefully, it’s all worth it!
Tell me about the practical issues (travel, breakages, etc):
The exhibition I’ve put together for Sydney is a smaller version of a work I debuted at the Muswellbrook Art Centre last year. Because of space, and also because some of the other works are still overseas, I couldn’t bring as many pieces. But I really wanted to bring some of my larger, more ‘impressive’ and impactful pieces.
I didn’t secure the funding I needed to pay for all logistics costs, so instead of paying an arts courier to bring the works from my Hunter Valley studio to Sydney, which I would normally do, my Dad and I hitched up the trailer…
We packed the works in after I had selected the ones I would exhibit. And, we both kinda thought the height of two of the works in particular was too much… They both stand at 2.4m. So, they were sticking up, protruding, out of our little box trailer – maybe just a little too much… Anyways – we packed them as best we could – Father and Son – and we strapped them to each other, and the rest of the paintings… I guess we had one of those absent-minded, boofy, blokey “she’ll be right” moments…
Ten minutes into the drive – I had two broken paintings. The support beam had snapped under the force of the wind. I’m not really the type of person to get flustered or angry, but, I was pretty close to devastated seeing the snapped wood ripping a hole through the canvas. Like a weapon tearing through my flesh…! [The two painting that didn’t make the trip were the ones titled, Sakrifyce Bigyns, and All That Remaynes…].
We stopped. We repacked. We re-assessed. And we brought down what we could.
It was a really good lesson for me.
Could you describe the process behind designing and setting up the installation piece that inhabits the centre of the gallery – all bones and skulls, and sand and brick, and canvas and Presence?
The installation is ritualistic. It’s about the process. And often in creating installation or movement pieces, I find the process more important than the finished product.
Each movement in its creation becomes like a part of a prayer, part of the ritual. For an installation of this size, I wont so much as design it prior (I have an idea of what I want to achieve) – I will bring all of the materials I want to use, and I will just begin, in the space. With this work, I created something that resembles a petroglyph or a song cycle.
When I finished it, it was perfect to me, and now, slowly over the course of the exhibition, it has been trodden on, the wind has blown the sand – which is even more perfect. Seeing something degrade, and be ‘destroyed’ over time, by the viewer and the environment, is exactly what I was going for.
The ‘language’ you have created, such as the titles used for your artworks, e.g. Fraktuyred Child. There is a potency in the titles themselves. It very specifically lends an Identity, and creates a World. Much like your works, it rides the duality of known/unknown; deconstruction/construction:
Part of what I’ve been doing with my art works and my writing is to create a parallel world where more stories can be ‘real’. Where they really happen. For themselves. For you.
In this world, every god, every demon, and every creature we’ve ever told stories about or believed in – is alive. It’s a great vehicle for me to be able to these tell stories that I want to tell, and create this art set in this other world, because it means almost anything is possible.
Personally, I grew up speaking pidjin English, and I was very influenced by my friends of Papua New Guinean, Polynesian and Torres Straight Islander background. So, when I started to create paintings set in my ‘other world’, I decided the paintings should be named in my ‘own language’. I’ve led myself to bastardising English, Gamilaroi language and other bits and pieces to create a language that is unique to me, and my world. One day I’m going to have to write this down…!
Lost Tales: Walking with Gods, Sydney exhibition – runs till the 13th Feb, M2 Gallery, Surry Hills (450 Elizabeth St), 12noon till 9pm daily.