Contemporary Indigenous Artist | Lauren Freestone
Lauren follows the artistic lead of her father Lee Freestone, an Indigenous artist based in Scotts Head NSW Gumbaynggirr country.See our handpicked guides to Newcastle
BY ALICIA POOLE
We recently had a lovely email drop into the HUNTERhunter inbox asking for us to swing by to check out an exhibition happening at the Makerspace nestled between Maker Store & Studio and The Edwards. A bit of googling later, we landed on Lauren Freestone and her art brand; Freestone Art.
Originally from Scotts Head, Lauren Freestone is a Contemporary Indigenous Artist that has called Newcastle home for the past 12 years. A descendant of the Wiradjuri people, which is where Lauren’s Great-Great-Grandfather James Gillis McDonald, originated. He was a well-known tracker for the Mudgee police. Hearing his stories and reading Australian writer and poet, Henry Lawson’s short story on him, Black Joe, has had a huge inspiration for her own work.
“His knowledge of country and the bush made him very sought after. Henry Lawson wrote a short story about him; Black Joe… that was Henry Lawson’s childhood recollection of James.”
Her family, past and present have had a huge influence on her artistic nature and storytelling ability. From James, to her great-grandmother, Edith, as well as her artistic father Lee and Grandfather, Ted.
“My Great, Great Grandfather was a Wiradjuri man born at Laheys Creek near Rylestone. He worked for the Mudgee Police as a tracker. His daughter, Edith, moved from there to Sydney where there was a larger Aboriginal community at the time.
“My grandfather moved to Port Macquarie and started selling his didgeridoos and boomerangs at the local markets. From there Dad put his work on canvas and now here I am.”
Growing up in Scotts Head surrounded by both the beach and the bush, that environment has attributed to Lauren’s love for nature and still influences a lot of her work today. Lauren also grew up surrounded by creative works, with her father, Lee Freestone, a well-known Indigenous artist known for his Indigenous canvas paintings.
Although following in her father’s footsteps, Lauren has developed her own contemporary style that reflects modern interiors whilst still remaining connected to her family and story.
“Indigenous art is really story telling. Although my art is also inspired by country there is always a connection back to my family and my story. Mine is certainly more contemporary, there isn't a lot of traditional symbols used through out. Whereas my Dad uses quite a lot more traditional symbols. I think it's important to know your place and know what your telling is true to you and your family.
“It definitely for me is that family connection that I’m always going back to and my family’s story and trying to put that into my painting. Rather than
the traditional symbols that you’re use to seeing.”
Whilst Lauren has always had a strong creative energy, scribbling on paper for as long as she can remember; her dot work has only really been in the works for the past five years.
“I was at my dad’s and was admiring his work, when one of his good mates, Richie Donovan, a close family friend, came in and said, so when are you going to start doing this, you’d be amazing. It kind of made me think that maybe I could do this.
“I had dabbled with it before, but I’d never really taken it seriously. So, I did one and received a lot of good feedback and I’ve just been learning since then and it’s took off.”
From the first dot painting she created over five years ago, to the work Lauren is focussed on now; Freestone Art has developed over the years.
“The first dot painting I ever did was very different to what I’m doing now. There’s a lot of learning that comes with it, and I didn’t want to just run out there and do a dot painting. It needed to have meaning and it needed to be connected to my family; it was never just going to be a generic picture with dots. A lot of that is going back to stories of my family and trying to incorporate that into my work. The running, travelling lines sort of came from my Great Great Grandfather being the tracker. A lot of the stories I heard about him really inspires me to put that into my painting.”
Lauren’s pieces are the perfectly unique unification of contemporary style and traditional Indigenous work. Freestone Art is Lauren’s ability to pull on modern colour trends and mixing in her Indigenous heritage and storytelling ability.
“I think I’d always had the contemporary side, especially from my visual merchandising background. I definitely took elements from that into my work, using different colours that are used in interiors at the moment, they have definitely influenced some of my colour choices.
“There's a lot of really good contemporary Indigenous artists out there, up and coming and established. I love the artwork from the APY Art centre. The Ken sisters collaborative works are amazing.”
Each of Lauren’s works, whether you purchase as an original piece or a print, is attached to a story. For instance, the piece Spirit II,
“This painting is about family. It carries on from my first Spirit piece. The three flame like shapes across the bottom represent the three generations of family still with us. The white dots represent our spirits and the spirits of those before us meeting again. Our past Spirits are always present. They are not always seen but always heard. As in my Spirit piece this painting is about family and my pride of being apart of them and carrying on their spirit as well as my own.”