Josh Muir’s first overdose occurred after a game of basketball.
He was 15 years old.
“I remember the game finishing and then coming home and going to sleep but then waking up in a hospital,” he says. “It was quite scary because they said if you hadn’t of been so young and fit you probably wouldn’t have made it.”
The former school captain and promising basketball player struggled with drug addiction, depression and anxiety throughout his teenage years. The 23-year-old would beat his demons more than once only to relapse again, spending time homeless after dropping out of
It was not the last time Muir, a Yorta Yorta/Gunditjmara man from the Victorian city of Ballarat, would feel unable to cope with life.
The former school captain and promising basketball player struggled with drug addiction, depression and anxiety throughout his teenage years. The 23-year-old would beat his demons more than once only to relapse again, spending time homeless after dropping out of high school.
Yet Muir’s story is one of hope rather than despair as he embarks on a career as an artist.
“Part of the healing process for me was to practice art, you know, I put myself out there,” he says. “Now I’m developing, I like to call it my language in art a bit more … It’s helped me get out of a dark place in my life.”
Muir is a finalist in this year’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art
Awards, with Buninyong, a kaleidoscopic digital print depicting the Indigenous history of the area.
In the centre of the work is an Aboriginal family surrounded by symbols of European settlement such as Buninyong’s historic post office, mining and sheep farming as well as Aboriginal lore including Bunjil the Creator and the crow totem.
“The two figures up in the clouds represent the reconciliation that we’d always hope white and Aboriginal people can work towards,” Muir says. “It represents a sort of dreamtime. After the passing of many Aboriginal people and European settlers, they go up to the dreamtime and they’re in peace.”
Muir’s art draws on hip-hop and street art culture and often depicts the history of indigenous people and European settlers.
His work Heaven’s Gates won the people’s choice award at the 2014 Victorian Indigenous Arts Awards and it was shown at the Art Gallery of Ballarat earlier this year. He will also stage his first solo exhibition in Mars Gallery in Melbourne in August.
The gallery’s acting director Anne Rowland says Muir has developed a distinctive style that “has potential wherever he takes it. He does stand out”.
Muir is the sole Victorian artist among 65 NATSIAA finalists selected by this year’s judges National Gallery of Victoria director Tony Ellwood, curator Cara Pinchbeck and artist Daniel Walbidi. (There are no finalists from NSW, Tasmania and the ACT). The art prizes, worth a total of $75,000, will be announced on August 7 at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.
Muir, who mentors Indigenous high school students, is refreshingly honest about his struggles with addiction and mental health issues, and its impact on his family.
“I had loving parents, you know, I never went without,” he says.
Basketball was Muir’s childhood passion, and his skill on the court led him to represent his state.
Yet Muir also started experimenting with marijuana, prescription pills and “played around with other substances” from a young age. He was in treatment for addiction by the age of 15.
“But I came back home and relapsed and I managed to get myself in a bit of mischief,” he says. “I’ll be honest I used to do a lot of things which would generate money to support my habit. Things I’m not terribly proud of.”
Bouncing between rehabilitation and relapse was understandably frustrating for Muir’s family who witnessed their son and brother wasting his academic and sporting potential.
Despite the challenges, Muir says he received a lot of support from family and community: “I’m lucky to have people like my father and his family and my mother and her family to lean on and just feel like I belong and have that strength and identity.”
“Art has been one of the many things that has helped me channel my energy into positivity.” Article Link…