Raymond Young is of Gunnai, Yorta Yorta and Gunditjmara descent. He was born in 1966 in Melbourne and currently has no fixed address, moving from one studio space to another. Young learnt how to make ceramics and developed his art skills through the Statewide Indigenous Arts in Prisons and Community Pilot Program. While incarcerated in Loddon Prison, he was given access to Gunnai shield designs from the Gippsland area, inspiring him to work in clay and create pots and shields that connected him to his culture.
The shields exhibited in Battle Lines are created to resemble those made by past generations, particularly at the time of first contact. The shields of the nation’s Indigenous people were no defence against European weaponry—they display the physical signs of domestic use and deliberately bear the marks of time.
The title of this exhibition is a reference to Young’s personal life—the battle lines are the artificial boundaries he has drawn as he struggles to overcome his addiction to substance abuse, homelessness and family violence. He has fought this battle all his life, and making ceramics has been instrumental in his healing process. He says, “working with clay gives me a direction and helps me focus on something positive. Each shield is different to the next. I want each piece to have a personality. I want them to represent the elders and carry the wisdom and knowledge like they do; that’s who my shields represent”.
Raymond Young’s artwork was included in the exhibition Melbourne Now at the National Gallery of Victoria in 2014. He was also represented in CONFINED 5, 6 and 7—a project encouraging Indigenous Australians who have been incarcerated or are presently imprisoned, to create artwork for the exhibition. Young’s work is currently on display in Wominjeka: A New Beginning which traces cultural continuities and explores new modes of creative practice in South Eastern Aboriginal art and cultures. His work is held in the National Gallery of Victoria Collection, the Shepparton Art Gallery and the Koorie Heritage Trust Collection. He won the top prize in the Victorian Indigenous Art Award for three-dimensional works at the Ballarat Art Gallery in 2015.