Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following story contains mentions of a deceased person. The late artist’s family has granted permission to use his name.

A multi-talented artist who created a vast range of paintings and digital artworks in his all-too-brief lifetime, Josh Muir is remembered for his talent, originality, and important perspective. Born in Ballarat in 1991, the artist was informed by his cultural identity as a Gunditjmara, Yorta Yorta and Barkindji man, while influenced by the imagery of street art and pop aesthetics.

His work, ranging from small, intimate paintings to large-scale projections on the façade of the NGV, explored themes like identity, colonisation, addiction, mental health and grief. The breadth of his artistic vision is now being celebrated with his first posthumous retrospective, JXSH MVIR: Forever I Live, showing at the Koorie Heritage Trust (KHT) from March 9.

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“He first came to my attention when I started at the Koorie Heritage Trust back in 2012,” says Tom Mosby, the Trust’s CEO. “We did an exhibition called the Ballarat Four in 2013 and Josh was included in that. At that stage, he was just a young kid. But even then, we saw real potential in terms of his art style.”

From there, Muir was mentored by KHT, developing his craft. In 2014, he won the Creative Victoria Excellence Award in the KHT’s second Koorie Art Show for his artwork The Throne, a colourful digital print on aluminium. Also in the same year, he was the recipient of the 2014 Victorian Indigenous Art Award people's choice vote and the young artist award at the 2015 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. By 2016, he was commissioned for a major work, creating a digital, animated piece titled Still Here that was projected onto the exterior of the NGV for White Night. The work told the story of First Nations people before and after colonisation, with a message of resilience.

“I think that really brought Josh to prominence for a lot of people,” says Mosby. “And then we did an exhibition with him in 2018.” That first solo show, titled Josh X Muir, saw his colourful, distinctive digital prints on aluminium and neon-lit sculptures take over KHT’s gallery.

First established in 1985, KHT is a not-for-profit arts and cultural organisation owned and managed by First Nations people. Located in Fed Square’s Birrarung Building, the KHT underwent a major revamp last year, expanding from two floors to three with brand new gallery spaces. It reopened in December 2023 with its 11th Koorie Art Show, but the Muir retrospective will be the first major show in the new spaces.

“We’re very excited because I think the design of those spaces will really lend themselves well to showing Josh’s artwork,” Mosby says.

Following Muir’s passing in 2022, Mosby – a friend of the artist who spoke at his funeral – approached Muir’s mother Justine Berg and the artist’s partner Shanaya Sheridan with the idea of joining KHT as guest curators for a retrospective.

“Bringing [them in] just brings that sort of very personal element to the show,” he says. “They are able to give to the show a lot of heart and soul and insight into Josh, but also the artworks as well, that we never would have been able to do just by ourselves.”

Beyond creating the exhibition, Mosby and KHT are also assisting Sheridan, who had two children with Muir, with managing his estate. “On the one level, it was very much about, ‘what can we present as an exhibition?’, but at the same time, ‘what can we give back to Josh's family, to his children, in creating that sort of legacy?’”

When the retrospective opens next month, visitors can expect to see a wide range of works from Muir’s private collectors and works on loan from major institutions, from his very early pieces to his major commissions, as well as an intimate piece Mosby bought himself years ago, titled Forever I Live, after which the exhibition is named.

“The name of that work has translated really well as the exhibition title because it is a celebration of Josh’s legacy,” says Mosby, “that he will continue to live through his artwork, also through his family, (and) his children. So, even though he passed quite young, this for us is about Josh living on.”

Broadsheet is a proud media partner of Fed Square. JXSH MVIR: Forever I Live runs from March 9 to July 14, 2024, at Koorie Heritage Trust. Entry is free.