Jacklyn Wagner

Artistic journey continues

FOR BUNDJALUNG man Eric Ferguson, art remains as the strongest link to his culture.

"Art is one of the few things left from our culture that we have got that we can actually do," he said.

"It's hard for people in a town like Lismore to go somewhere and hunt a kangaroo or go and get some bush tucker, so art is one of the remaining links with our culture that we can own and take pride in."

In 2000, after painting for just over a year, Mr Ferguson said he got his inspiration to follow his dream to be an artist when he had his work critiqued by former US President Bill Clinton.

This came after he was chosen as the Australian representative in the Young Artists Exhibition at the Asia-Pacific Economic Corporation APEC conference in Brunei.

"Once I saw how my art was received by those world leaders I have been doing art ever since," Mr Ferguson said.

From his Lismore base Mr Ferguson continued to hone his techniques, including those taught to him by his father that had been passed down through generations.

That was until 2008 - aged just 29 - he suffered a stroke, leaving him unable to function as an artist.

"I woke up one morning and I couldn't talk, write or draw," he said. "So I took to lino tile carving to practice how to draw again."

Once rehabilitated, in 2010 Mr Ferguson enrolled and excelled in a certificate IV in Goori Design at Lismore TAFE.

That year he and 11 other NSW indigenous design students was selected to expand their artistic repertoire by participating in a study tour to Vietnam.

In 2011, while studying a certificate IV in Visual Arts at Lismore TAFE, Mr Ferguson was involved in designing key elements of the Bundjalung creation story that adorns a local bus.

"My goal is to start my own business and this course gave me the formal qualification to back myself up and the skills an artist needs to negotiate the balance between developing commercially successful products and treating my culture appropriately and with respect," he said.

While continuing to develop his business EFD Designs, Mr Ferguson hopes to start a visual arts degree at Southern Cross University.

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