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Vicki Couzens


The 2010 Stony Rises Project was a collective exhibition made up of work from invited artists in response to the Stony Rises landscape of the western districts of Victoria. Couzens response was to tell the story of dispossession, the ways in which her Ancestors fought and died defending their Country, how Ancestral homelands were forcibly taken and never surrendered.

Digital images of Country were overlaid with images of crosses commemorating battles and massacres on her Country. These crosses reference the ‘George Whatmore’ cross found on the roadside past Port Fairy, inscribed with ‘George Whatmore: Killed by Blacks’. Couzens appropriates this imagery, inscribing instead the details of those killed by whites in these battles.

Couzens further explores the mortuary practices and funeral and mourning rituals of her people within this work, creating a ‘burial’ possum skin cloak with a graphic symbolic design of skeleton and markings.

Within the Stony Rises Project, Couzens memorialised five battle or massacre sites.

Stony Rise works:

1.Tarnbeere Gundidj
2. Moperer Gundidj
3. Kilcarer Gundidj
4. Gunaward Gundidj
5. Eumeralla War
6. Honour Roll
 (This list of the names of survivors of the frontier is produced from historical sources.)
7. George Whatmore
(This is a cross that is still present by the roadside past Port Fairy in Gunditjimara Country.)

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Vicki Couzens

A Keerray Warrong woman from the western districts of Victoria, Vicki Couzens’ artistic practice is inspired by her culture: her…

A Keerray Warrong woman from the western districts of Victoria, Vicki Couzens’ artistic practice is inspired by her culture: her passion for the reclamation, regeneration and revitalisation of cultural knowledge and practices drive and inform her work. “Culture is the framework through which we connect to our Country, our Belonging. It defines us and makes us who we are. Our language, stories, songs, dance, artefacts, cultural knowledge and practices demonstrate our continuing connections. Land, language and identity are fundamental to our Being. To know who you are, and where you come from, is to know your Place” (Couzens, 2011). Art has always been instrumental to Couzens’ life, however it was not until she entered her early thirties that she began professionally working, exhibiting and performing.

For Couzens, land, language and identity are a central focus that creates a nexus in which the past and present are linked. Martina Copely has described Couzens’ work as portraying the land as an ancestral body with stories and histories. Her work encompasses a range of media, from painting, installation, mixed media, sculpture, printmaking and possum skin cloak making.

Couzens’ family has a particularly strong connection to artistic practice. Her grandfather, Nicholas Counzens was an exceptional artist, specialising in painting portraits, nudes and landscapes in and around Port Campbell. Uncle Stan Couzens became well known for his painting after his retirement, while Aunty Zelda was well known for her basket weaving. Couzens’ children are each artists in their own right.

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