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Let's Talk: Connecting the past and present with Chloe Jones

Artist: Chloe Jones sits with her artwork outside Kaiela Arts. Photo by Megan Fisher

Coming into her 21st year, Yorta Yorta artist Chloe Jones is allowing her art to reflect her young life.

Growing, changing, adapting — but also holding on to tradition.

By making room for the past, the present and the future all together, Chloe is learning her own truth.

Growing up in the Mooroopna area, Chloe is a proud Yorta Yorta woman, and has always been passionate about her culture and art.

Yet with that title, she said, at times came a world of pressure and a question of identity.

“I've always struggled communicating and connecting to people, as a kid growing up I was always confused about a lot of things — being half-Aboriginal, half-white Australian, I didn’t know where I fit,” she said.

“I wanted to get more involved in my traditional art, but then there are certain people within my mob they just assume that because I don’t look Aboriginal, I shouldn't be practising.

“It's been a long road, navigating my way through this and I'm always trying to just take my time with it, I don't rush into anything.”

Dungala, which refers to the Murray River or running water in Yorta Yorta language, inspired Chloe’s art business created in 2018, Dungala Creations.

Chloe learnt traditional art symbols and their storytelling components at Kaiela Arts Centre.

Creator: Chloe Jones is allowing her art to show more of herself. Photo by Megan Fisher

Learning from Elders and artists, she was able to discover styles and techniques that come from Yorta Yorta country.

But for Chloe, after a year of working on solely traditional works, something was missing — something just wasn’t right.

“I've always struggled wanting to stay true to myself, and I never wanted to do something that didn't feel right or uncomfortable to me,” she said.

“I realised I needed to make this shift because I wasn’t happy; like, I love creating but I'm not creating what feels right to me.

“I wanted to combine the two of my own personal styles, which is a little bit more abstract or contemporary with that traditional style of art, because it's literally just a reflection of me as an artist.”

By making the move to discover a contemporary edge, Chloe has begun incorporating playful colours and abstractions into her paintings.

However, she said like many contemporary artists she struggled with guilt — in finding a balance between supporting her community and keeping her art her own.

But the guilt she felt wasn’t related solely to art.

Aside from having love and huge amounts of support, she said there was always pressure growing up Aboriginal.

Dungala Creations: Chloe works on a recent piece. Photo by Megan Fisher

From a young age being the face of the Indigenous community, fronting crowds for acknowledgements, she said the notion of ‘we have to do it for our people, our mob, for my mum, for our family’ could be a heavy load to bear.

“It falls on a lot of our young mob, these massive responsibilities that they didn't ask for but unfortunately, that's just what comes with it,” she said.

“That's why there's bigger rates of mental health issues within our communities and a lot of our younger ones because there's a massive amount of pressure and trying to fit in and, obviously, unfortunately, they also experience discrimination still.

“And there are people in this country who want to believe that it doesn’t exist or are so in denial about it and it’s like, are you serious? I experience this daily.

“Even about the Stolen Generation, people don’t want to talk about it but it’s like, my mother’s generation was a part of that. I have family, my grandmother, everyone's a part of that — I stare that in the face every day, so you can't tell me that's in the past, because I'm living it every single day.”

During the two years at Kaiela Arts, Chloe said she learnt more about her culture than she had her in whole life but additionally, she discovered a safe place.

This spurred a passion that she hopes she can pass on to others.

“I'd love to create more spaces like that down in Melbourne as well in the future,” she said.

“I know people are sick of hearing it, but our mob, we need these things.”

Follow Chloe’s journey on Instagram at dungalacreations or online at https://dungalacreations.com/.

∎ Caitlyn Grant and Megan Fisher are opening the conversation with their new weekly column, Let’s Talk. Covering all things from mental health to successful business stories, we want to hear from you. If you or someone you know has a story, contact caitlyn.grant@mmg.com.au or megan.fisher@sheppnews.com.au