Josh Muir inspired by Oaxaca

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Printmaker Josh Muir reflects on his residency in Oaxaca. An exhibition of his new work can be seen at Koorie Heritage Trust, 6 October – 24 November 2018. 

When hearing the news, I was being supported to travel to Mexico, Initially I was excited and nervous.

2017 marked the 50th year anniversary between foreign affairs and trade between Mexico and Australia. I was selected to represent Australia in a 4-week artist in residence, to be completed in Oaxaca, Mexico.

I had no idea what the travel had in store for myself and my partner, so we just rolled with the punches. We set off on our adventure waking up early to get to the Melbourne Airport in preparation for our big 19-hour flight overseas. Checking into L.A to Mexico City, where we were greeted by DFAT.

Our first day and night was surely an eye opener into the mystery of experiencing Mexico, It was so raw and full of action and so vast it would seem intimidating to ever lose yourself there.

We then travelled to Oaxaca, down south, a very different vibe to Mexico City, it was so colourful filled with mystical creatures in sculptural form and it had a feel of celebration most of the time. Music food arts and culture was surely prominent in the south, with a landscape of huge mountains surrounding the plain of the city.

We were to stay a CaSa in san Augustin, Elta. Where printmaking was the main focus, we received great knowledge of CaSa and its purpose to support Artists Locally Nationally and International. I felt honoured and blessed to be given the opportunity and to finally settle into a four-week experience of high and low.

I started the residency with painting the iconic influences of Mexico including the influence that I see. Upon our visit to Oaxaca we spent days learning about the culture at the Instuto de Artes Graficas de Oaxaca, which we learnt was one of the many of local legendary artist Fransisco Toledo establishments. We were exposed to many different practices and Artists talks.

The chance to experience Oaxaca outside an arts setting arose and we were able to shop eat and enjoy what the city had to offer, it was lush and beautiful, the only barrier was we were not so fluent with Española, which made it difficult at times to communicate seeming also we had such strong Australian accents.

During our stay at CaSa we were well looked after though so foreign to the big change it took a while to adjust.

Terrifyingly enough we experienced an 8.3 magnitude earthquake shock us this was followed by more earthquakes throughout our stay. This is the moment we wanted to return home early for our safety.

Having completed a series of artworks I was celebrated in the media and was given the opportunity to speak at the Instuto de Artes Graficas de Oaxaca, with my own Artist talk, around 30 people showed up to listen to my talk. With the help of a translator, it was a success.

This ended the experience on a high note and we were able to enjoy our last week staying in the city of Oaxaca, soaking up the atmosphere.

Meeting other Australians in Oaxaca was surreal because we felt we hadn’t heard a familiar accent for a while, it was refreshing to know we were in the company of other passionate travellers from Australia.

We then wrapped up in Oaxaca having a wondrous time it was full of twists and turns.

Flying back to Mexico City we could taste our time coming to a closure. We had the chance to meet fantastic communities’ institutions and people. The level of art was so intricate and was collected throughout the world it made us realise how truly special the Arts and culture of Mexico is truly respected.

Our engagement was versatile and we had a great time getting to know more about the rich and thriving history which makes Mexico a intriguing place to immerse yourself in.

In our finally week of stay we were later to find out our now son was conceived in Oaxaca city which is now the best thing that has happened to us.

All in all, the experience was fantastic. The culture was hypnotic and it allowed us to be open to a moment in time we’ll never forget.

Upon returning to Australia we were so glad to come home and rejoice with family and share our stories with them.

One thing I learnt while being in Oaxaca returning home was to not take anything for granted we are extremely lucky and our Mexico trip was such an eye opener it made us appreciate the little things in life.

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