From a visual artist, producer and podcast creator to a gifted dancer, choreographer and author, Travis De Vries is a creative jack of all trades, currently making huge waves in the arts world.
A 2010 NAISDA graduate, we recently caught up with Travis to find out what he’s been up to since leaving NAISDA and how it helped him prepare for a successful and varied career across many sectors of the arts industry.
What was your most memorable experience when studying at NAISDA?
For me, the most positive experience was meeting the amazing melting pot of students and tutors from all around the country. It gave me a huge insight into the backgrounds of people from around Australia and their different Indigenous experiences because, as we know, each Indigenous culture is so unique.
How do you think NAISDA has helped you grow as an artist?
I was an interesting case when I came to NAISDA. I was 19 when I started, which is older than the starting age of many other Developing Artists. At the time, I was an emerging visual artist so I already had an artistic voice but NAISDA gave me an opportunity to be artistic in a different way. I discovered a love of artistic movement.
NAISDA is known for dance, but it exposes you to other performance aspects like drama, physical theatre and composition. It gave me the confidence to discover other forms and use my voice as a theatre producer and a dance producer.
Like with other tertiary environments, NAISDA is a place where you start to learn more about yourself. There was a bit of a drop out of attendees from my Certificate group in the first year, so I was fortunate enough to do a lot of one on one classes with the teachers. It was an intense experience, but also intensely rewarding because it made me push myself and take advantage of the learning opportunity.
Tell us a bit about what you’ve been doing since graduating?
I started dancing with Bangarra straight after NAISDA. I then left and pursued a career with the Sydney Opera House as a First Nations Producer. While there, I was involved in many different projects and worked across major festivals including Vivid Live and Summer Festival.
Currently, I am the Create NSW 2018 Aboriginal Art Fellow and have been spending this year as an Artist In Residence, painting and creating.
I also create an Aboriginal comedy podcast, called Broriginals, with my brother. He also attended NAISDA for a short time but left and started a family. It’s great that we still get an opportunity to create together.
I am also a writer and am currently working on my first full-length novel. It is an Aboriginal science fiction novel which is kind of like the black Harry Potter and follows the adventures of a young heroine. I’m really excited to finish it.
What’s been the hardest part of your journey?
I’m not really an extrovert and I’ve had to teach myself to put myself out there and not worry about what people think of me.
I struggle a lot with anxiety, but have learnt to channel that through my creative outputs in a positive way. I’ve had to learn how to come out of my shell and not get so caught up in my thoughts.
One way that I’ve started to look at it is that there are more than seven and a half billion people in the world – if less than 0.0001 of those people connect to my work, then I’ve done my job.
Along with that, there’s also the financial struggles that come with trying to make a living in the Arts.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on a new project called Garden.
I’ve always loved the painting Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch and this will draw inspiration from that. A previous project of mine Lost Tales: Walking With Gods took a look at Celtic culture and its fusion with Aboriginal culture. With this one, I want to take a hit at Christian mythology. I will be, in effect, proposing that Australia pre-invasion was the Garden of Eden and invasion was paramount to the introduction of evil.
Garden will be presented as an in gallery three-dimensional experiential sculpture work along with two-dimensional paintings along all of the wall. The exhibition is designed for the viewer to walk into, complete with a walk in garden in the centre of the gallery space which will include live plant matter which will grow and decay over time (and hopefully even some nude actors!).
What I’m doing is creating new mythologies about being Indigenous. I don’t like the idea of Aboriginal culture being a museum piece, I love that it’s growing and evolving, which is why I’m taking it, messing with it and bringing new ideas to it.
I’d love for other young people to be hungry and want to mess with the fabric also.
Finally, what advice might you give a young person thinking of a career in the Arts?
It might be controversial, but my advice is to mess up.
Work hard, but don’t be scared to mess up. And when you do, learn from it, go home and make art about it, have fun with it!
Also, don’t just go to NAISDA because other people are telling you to – go because you want to or if you are interested in giving it a go. If you do go, work hard, because it really pays if you do.
To find out more about Travis, view his art and keep on top of his projects, visit www.travisdevries.com .