Since 2011, The Torch has been providing art, cultural and arts industry support to Victorian-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are currently or have previously been incarcerated. The organisation assists artists to reconnect with culture, earn income from art sales (with 100% of the sale price going directly to the artist), foster new networks and to pursue educational and creative industry avenues upon their release.
For Collective Movements, Gunnai artist Ray Thomas—a former Indigenous Arts Officer with The Torch—has worked with Yorta Yorta artist Leroy McLaughlin, Gamilaroi artist Sean Miller, Barkindji artist Trevor Mitchell and Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta artist Ash Thomas on the mural Paying Homage to Culture, 2022.
Ray’s collaboration with the four artists serves as a platform for sharing cultural and artistic knowledge between those involved. Produced in association with The Torch, the mural exemplifies the organisation’s program of cultural strengthening and artistic expression while honouring Boonwurrung traditional custodians.
Ray’s murals can be seen at the Northcote Town Hall and the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service in Preston and Fitzroy, and he was one of the group of artists who created the Koorie
Mural at the Aborigines Advancement League (AAL) in the 1980s. Earlier in his life, Ray connected with Yorta Yorta artist
Lin Onus, who introduced him to oil paints and became a mentor throughout Ray’s career, including on the Koorie Mural.
‘We started with workshops at The Torch boardroom; we sat down and knocked out that story about intergenerational knowledge sharing and the environment. The environment is a big part of it for all of us. And trying to represent Country, how it was pre-colonisation, showing that we’re proud Aboriginal people—that we’d love to share our knowledge.’—Sean Miller
Culture is the key to spiritual wellbeing, connection to Country and to knowledge handed down through the generations—Ash Thomas
Exhibited in Collective Movements:
RAY THOMAS WITH LEROY MCLAUGHLIN, SEAN MILLER,
TREVOR MITCHELL AND ASH THOMAS
Paying Homage to Culture 2022
acrylic paint on aluminium 4panels:187×418.5cm;187×240.6cm;187x274cm;187x293cm Produced in association with The Torch
‘It really heals and teaches them culture. Getting together with our Elders like Uncle Ray Thomas really makes you feel good inside. It’s like a therapy.’—Sean Miller