'It was the same cemetery and the graves were side by side'
A JOURNEY to discover her family's war time history has had a lasting impact on a Clarence Valley artist.
After picking up the Yulgilbar Travelling Fellowship award in 2017, Julie Hutchings traversed France and Belgium researching the history of her two indigenous great uncles who served in the World War I.
The result was her exhibition Battle Scars which featured at Grafton Regional Gallery earlier this year and Ms Hutchings is returning to discuss her work and future direction this weekend.
"It was much more emotional than I expected it to be, personally and professionally it was just an amazing time.”
The significance of combining something she felt she needed to do at a personal level with her journey as an artist was not lost on Ms Hutchings, who agreed it was something she strived for.
"As an artist you try and explore various things and find your way in the art world and it just connected so well,” she said.
"What started out personally, you can make a little more more universal so that other people connect.”
Ms Hutchings said despite going armed with a fair bit of information about her two great Uncles Charles Alfred Gage and Christopher Henry Gage she did not know their final resting place.
The men were two of around just 1000 Aboriginal soldiers who served in World War I and in 1916 Charles Gage was the first indigenous man to die on Villers-Bretonneux on the western front.
But in the course of her time both in Europe and back home, Ms Hutchings was struck by the "amazing connection and interest” that the experience generated with others, including one particular moment while on tour.
After she and her sister connected with another couple looking for the final resting place of their own relatives, they were all shocked to discover how close their ancestors were to her great uncle.
"You wouldn't believe it was the same cemetery and the graves were side by side,” she said.
"I just get goosebumps thinking about it, it was one of the most emotive and unheard of experiences on the tour.”
Juli Hutchings' talk Battlescars and New Directions will take place at Grafton Regional Gallery on Saturday, November 9 at 6pm.
The event hosted by Friends of Grafton Gallery will be the last before the venue closes for renovations. Bookings through Eventbrite.