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Making art part of the community

July 25, 2017

Eric Brown takes a look at one of his paintings in Kaiela Arts.

Shepparton’s Eric Brown is a relaxed individual who spends his time carefully crafting artistic masterpieces at Kaiela Arts.

The gallery on Shepparton’s busy High St is full of a range of indigenous artworks, and with more than 100 artists on the books you are sure to spot something you love.

From paintings to pillows, jewellery to emu eggs you may not see everything properly until you take the time to really look around. Kaiela Arts started about 10 years ago and Eric has been involved with the gallery since then.

Between four and five years ago he decided to make being an artist his full-time career and now spends much of the week at the gallery working on his many projects and also holding different workshops for those interested in Aboriginal art.

“I’ve learned so much since I started doing it full-time and now I want to learn more of the business side of things,” he said.

“I’ll have a go at this and I’ll have a go at that.”

When I visited the gallery, Eric was engrossed in creating candle holders from a didgeridoo. Eric said the didgeridoo was beyond repair so he decided to cut pieces out of it and engrave them.

“It’s something reusable and the didgeridoo was no good, it had cracks and holes in it and it wouldn’t have been able to be fixed properly to what I wanted, so I thought I would make something else out of it.”

The detail on the candle holders was impeccable, the blackened imagery on them was delivered with a steady hand and when finished presented a striking piece. Eric said it took two days of work to create one candle holder and he was determined to make them as perfect as possible.

Engraving small details on wood is clearly not a job for the faint hearted or for someone with a short attention span. Despite the time he had taken to craft the candles, Eric was still hesitant about whether other people would find them interesting.

“I wasn’t too sure about putting them out there,” he said.

But eventually Eric decided to put them in the gallery and discovered that his latest artistic endeavour intrigued quite a few people who have placed orders for their own candle holders.

For Eric, being an artist is not about making a profit or getting his work in every gallery, and this may be why he was no sure whether to put the candle holders on display.

Often younger artists will arrive at the gallery with a painting and he is happy to offer them a helping hand in the industry.

“More times than not I’ll say, ‘See that painting up there? That’s mine, take mine down and put yours up there’, and they all say, ‘What, really?’,” he said with a smile.

“To me it’s all about them and not me, I would rather get them to make a name for themselves first — my name’s already out there.

“That’s what I love doing, making them feel part of the gallery and the community.”

Eric spends a good part of his time mentoring and said it was important to share the Kaiela Arts gallery space with many artists.

“People who come into the gallery will come in here and say, ‘I like that painting, who did that?’ and I’ll say, ‘Well the artist is here, would you like to go meet them?’,” he said.

“And that’s what they like, the community like to meet the artist, so it’s all about the artist to me.”

Eric’s artwork has gone global and he is known in Shepparton to be skilled at painting canvases and didgeridoos, carving emu eggs, and he is also an accomplished didgeridoo player.

“I haven’t got a favourite, I try to do more of what’s selling,” he said.

“Art is a passion, I like doing art because it relaxes me.”

This is never more clear than when Eric is painting or carving an emu egg. In some cases he has become so absorbed with his work that when someone asks him a question about a meeting that might be happening next to him in the gallery, he has no idea what they are speaking about.

“I’m in my own little zone and I call that my passion,” he said. “It’s the relaxation of it and it’s therapy to a lot of artists.”

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