THERE is more to Aboriginal artwork than dot paintings, says artist Michael Jalaru Torres.
The Broome-based indigenous photographer is presenting his first solo exhibition in Wanneroo this month, which aims to promote the traditional practices of carving or scarring surfaces for art.
Torres identifies as a Yawuru and Djugan man and grew up with the art of pearl shell carving, a custom he said was dying out.
He was inspired by this and other scarification techniques, including those made on the skin during initiation ceremonies and has re-imagined them in his exhibition Scar.
“I wanted to use photography as one way of bringing back those concepts,” he said.
He had to overcome social and community barriers to attract photographic subjects from his home town, where he |painted their chest areas, then scratched the surface of the printed photo.
Short explanations accompany the works, which cover issues such as suicide and oppression.
“As I was doing it I thought more about trauma as a type of scar,” he said. “Peel the layer of beauty off and you see the trauma beneath it.”
Creating the pieces was an emotional process for Torres.
“When you think about some of the stories of the work as you start cutting into the paper, it did bring up a lot of emotions inside I didn’t realise I had,” he said.
“It was quite meditating, it was a strange moment.”
He describes his artwork as subtly political and hopes people will feel inspired to learn more about indigenous people and history, though noted it was pertinent to all. “It’s not just one people’s story, we all have had trauma in our own lives,” he said.
Torres became interested in photography in 2012 and found his niche just two years ago and since then has been part of three group exhibitions in Perth and Sydney.
At age 40, he is disappointed it has taken him this long to find his passion but now has a sharp focus.
He hopes to expose other indigenous art forms other than painting and encourage their mainstream acceptance.