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Kuku Yalanji Artist Tiarna Herczeg Creates Colourful Maps Of Country

Studio Visit

Tiarna Herczeg’s art practice is like a ‘ritual’; deeply personal and intuitive.

The proud Kuku Yalanji and Hungarian artist’s abstract artworks often share similarities to maps, capturing Country with vibrant, happy colours and fluid motions.

While their creative career might have coincided with an incredibly difficult mental health journey, a growing confidence in their identity has helped shape Tiarna’s expressive style of painting – and it’s just one of the reasons their star is on the rise.

Content warning – this story references domestic violence and sexual assault.

28th June, 2022

Artist Tiarna Herczeg in their studio. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Tiarna’s artistic style is characterised by expressive brush strokes and big swatches of colour that often resemble aerial maps. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Tiarna says, ‘I prefer to use board and acrylic as a material for painting.’ Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Mumbar / Careful‘ (left, leaning on wall), ‘Buray / Churn Up‘ (left hanging on wall), ‘Yiringkurrku/ Everywhere‘, (middle) and Past the Dumu / Past the Hillside’ (right on wall). Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Tiarna’s studio is a shared space with eight other artists at Join The Dots Marrickville. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

I have always been told I belong to the land vs the land belonging to me. So, I feel there is nothing left for me to look for, other than within. I allow the harmony of the land and interconnectivity of life to inspire me,’ Tiarna says. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Tiarna’s latest body of work is titled ‘JUWA‘, which means ‘too long a time’. They pulled the collection of paintings together in three weeks. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Tiarna paints ‘Past the Dumu / Past the Hillside’Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

It takes Tiarna anywhere from 10 – 50 minutes to complete a painting. In a week, they normally paint at least 10 artworks. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Ngalkal / Outside‘, by Tiarna Herczeg. Photo courtesy of Hake House.

Nganka / Blossom’by Tiarna Herczeg. Photo courtesy of Hake House.

I have worked this way for as long as I can remember, but It’s only recently that I have become more confident in my style,’ Tiarna says. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Tiarna with ‘Buray / Churn Up‘ (far left), ‘Mumbar / Careful’ (middle) and Past the Dumu / Past the Hillside’ (right). Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files.

Christina Karras
Tuesday 28th June 2022

‘When I paint, I feel something else takes hold of me and I am allowing ancestral knowledge to flow through onto the material’ – Tiarna Herczeg

Kuku Yalanji artist Tiarna Herczeg always ‘felt a calling to paint’. Despite this, something else pulled them in another direction, and they ended up studying a Bachelor of Laws and Arts majoring in social justice for almost three years.

‘During this time, I found myself in a domestic violence relationship and somehow after leaving that relationship, unfortunately experiencing further trauma and sexual assault,’ Tiarna says.

‘As my mental health was declining, I decided I had nothing left to lose, and I may as well follow my passion. So, I ditched law and enrolled in The National Art School (NAS) with a scholarship in 2020. Starting at NAS, I found my love for painting again.’

Tiarna had already developed an artistic style – characterised by expressive brush strokes and big swatches of colour – that only strengthened during their studies. And when they first posted their artwork to Instagram and someone wanted to buy it, it was all the validation Tiarna needed to keep going.

Since then, Tiarna has exhibited at Airspace Gallery, Stirrup Gallery, Brunswick Street Gallery, aMBUSH gallery, Michael Reid Northern Beaches and their impressive solo show, titled JUWA (meaning ‘Too long a time’) opened at HAKE House Of Art last week.

JUWA is ultimately about a deep connection to Country,’ Tiarna says of this latest body of work. The land is a large focus of Tiarna’s organic works, which are often inspired by compositions of photos captured while bushwalking or travelling.

‘When I paint, I feel something else takes hold of me and I am allowing ancestral knowledge to flow through onto the material,’ they add.

‘Somehow my paintings always resemble maps from an aerial view. I don’t understand what my subject matter is until I finish painting.’

As Tiarna sees painting as a way of communicating, they are ‘never fussy’ with choices around material and colour. They do however have a favourite paint brush, which was used across every painting in their latest collection. ‘I like the way that a previous painting can sort of carry on into a new work,’ Tiarna adds.

While the recent solo showcases are a highlight of Tiarna’s career so far, the emerging artist says the wonderful ‘sense of community’ that has formed around them along the way has been just as significant.

‘It feels beyond special to have a community of creative people behind me.’

Tiarna’s exhibition, ‘Juwa’ runs until July 2 at HAKE House Of Art in Sydney on Guringai Land.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault or domestic violence, you can call national sexual assault counselling service 1800RESPECT for support and advice, or the Vic Safe Steps crisis response line on 1800 015 188.

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net