Sunbury artist shortlisted for indigenous art award

A Sunbury artist who considered a career in the tattoo trade before finding his niche in graphic design is in the running for a $30,000 Indigenous art prize.

John Patten, who started to shift from commercial art towards galleries last year, has been shortlisted for the Victorian Indigenous Art Awards at his first attempt.

As an artist, Patten is a veritable jack of all trades. On any given evening, after finishing a day teaching Aboriginal art and culture at a Melbourne arts centre, he can be found working on anything from woodcarvings and metal work through to writing plays.

‘‘I do a lot of writing, painting, drawing, sculpture,’’ he says. ‘‘If there’s a material there, I’m keen to give it a go.’’

Patten moved to Sunbury about seven years ago after growing up in New South Wales. His shortlisted work,

Jugun II, represents his upbringing and the opportunities open to his children in his new home. The large black and white canvas is the second in a series of works telling his personal story.

‘‘It’s all very different to what most people associate as Aboriginal art,” he says. “There’s no dots or anything like that.’’

Patten says the works in the annual awards, which will be exhibited in Ballarat from August9, reflect the diversity of Indigenous culture.

‘‘Just in Victoria, you’ve got over 40 different language groups,” he says. ‘‘It’s like if you go to Europe, you’ve got all these different countries. On the surface, the people might look similar, but they’ve got … different language groups and religions.’’