Otis Hope Carey is a Positive Force to Be Reckoned With

"My main motivation is to share my culture with as many people as I can, in the most gentle and loving way possible."
February 4, 2017, 5:12pm

This article is part of our VICE Weekends summer series, presented by Weis

Otis Hope Carey is a professional surfer signed to Billabong and a talented artist, influenced by the Op Art movement of the 1960s and the traditional style of Gambayvnggirr people. Which is to say, he's a formidable force on land and sea.

Otis' paintings are deeply informed by indigenous history and culture, alongside his own life experiences. We caught up with Otis to have a bit of a chat about feelings, responsibilities and motivation.


VICE: Let's start from the beginning, where did you grow up?
Otis Hope Carey: I was born in Grafton in 1988 and spent most of my time living between there and Coffs Harbour.

You've been surfing forever, but painting is a much newer profession. When did it shift from being a personal creative outlet to finding a much wider audience in the commercial art world?
I was searching for another outlet to express myself and it just so happened to be painting with a brush. After my first solo show things started to happen very quickly, quicker than I could keep up with, so I guess that was the turning point.

That exhibition was NGURAALAMI at China Heights Gallery. What themes did that show explore? 
The whole show was based off a story of my grandmother passing onto our dreamtime. All the artworks represent the healing of our family and the knowledge we hold knowing our grandmother is back with our dreaming.

'NGURAALAMI' exhibition at China Heights

How would you describe your artistic style and approach? 
Oh jeez, I'm not sure. I try not to take things so serious and I like to approach things with an open mind, but I'd like to think my style is somewhat contemporary.

How do you feel when you're painting?
When I paint it's my time to forget about all the responsibilities I have and be at peace with my thoughts and feelings. I think it's really important to have time for ourselves to think and to feel. It's a very calming emotion that's really addictive, I find calmness to be somewhat of a drug.

'NGURAALAMI' exhibition painting, by Otis Hope Carey

How do you feel when you're surfing?
For me, surfing can bring up all sorts of mixed emotions. The ocean holds very strong healing elements so it can be a very therapeutic at times and at others, very exhausting. Whatever is happening on land I can take out into the ocean and realise it or use the ocean to embrace it.

In what ways does surfing shape your painting and vice versa?
I like to keep them both completely separate from each other. They both have elements of each other at times, but I never intentionally mean that to happen.

'NGALUNGGIRR MIINGGI' - Healing Spirit. 'NGURAALAMI' exhibition painting, by Otis Hope Carey

What motivates you?
My main motivation is to share my culture with as many people as I can, in the most gentle and loving way possible. Sure, you can force things upon people, but if you approach it gently people are more enclosed to listen with an open mind.

Can you tell me about some of the places in Australia that inspire you most? 
My people's country around Coffs Harbour inspires me with endless motivation and inspiration. Another place that has my heart is Uluru.

'NGAALGAN. YAAMANDI NGANYUNDI BAABANY NYAAGILING' - Red Rock, the place where my Nan was born. 'NGURAALAMI' exhibition painting, by Otis Hope Carey

Who has had the greatest influence on you?
Like any functioning family that's full of love and support I'd have to say my mother is my greatest influencer. She's put up with so much stuff over the years and has never battered an eyelid. She's full of so much love and wisdom, I'll always respect her for being so patient with us kids.

What are you most proud of?
My son, Beige.

And finally, what's on the horizon for you in 2017?
Lots of travelling with surfing commitments and lots of painting for my next solo show in August at China Heights Gallery.

You can follow Otis Hope Carey on Instagram

This article is presented by Weis