In this exclusive interview, we had the privilege of sitting down with the multi-talented Dylan Pietsch. As a Tokyo 2020 Olympian and a current athlete for the NSW Waratahs, Dylan has achieved remarkable success in the world of sports. But he is also a talented Aboriginal [Wulwaay] Artist, whose work has gained recognition for his unique blend of connection to self and culture.
As we began our conversation, Dylan humbly started off with an Acknowledgement of Country in Wiradjuri, demonstrating the importance of his Indigenous heritage and his connection to the land. In this interview, we delve into Dylan's journey as an athlete, artist and Indigenous Australian, exploring the challenges, the inspirations, and the passions that drive him forward.
How important is doing Indigenous art, to you as a person and as an Indigenous man?
Doing my art is a really important thing for me, I grew up loving art and I think for me when I'm not out bush it gives me that avenue to connect to Country and really express what I'm feeling and my culture. It’s a big thing for me because I get pretty lost sometimes when I'm not out bush, so it’s a really good thing for me to be able to sit down, listen to Gurrumul and be able to connect through that way, otherwise I think I'd go pretty insane without it.
In the past you've had struggles connecting with your culture, can you tell us a little more about that experience?
I went to a school that didn’t really celebrate my culture. It's better now that I’m helping them acknowledge Aboriginal culture, but it did disconnect me. I was only young and trying to find myself, so when you’re in that environment, it’s hard to connect to culture. It wasn’t until after I finished school that I began to find myself and who I was as a person, which filled a massive hole in my heart and was exactly what I needed.
Why is making a shirt like this with Butter Up Co. special?
As an artist, it's really cool to create a nice piece that's aesthetic, but it’s the messaging behind it that makes it special. I think a lot of people are starting to respect the Aboriginal culture and Torres Strait Islander culture, but are kind of skipping the step of respecting the people within that. You see people loving art, buying art, doing welcome to countries, doing acknowledgement to countries, doing reconciliation action plans - which are all good and well, it's really cool - but you're not actually respecting the people within that, you're kind of just getting the surface level of it, so I think bringing that to light is a really cool thing to be able to do.
How long did this piece take you? Talk us through the technicalities and elements of your design.
It took a few attempts to really get something that I liked, and I think I'm still trying to find myself as an artist, but through this piece I found that all my art is centred around connection and storylines, so I really wanted to bring that to light. To signify connection through Australia, you’ll see the connecting circles, and then you’ve got the fists rising which is something iconic - it says that we have power, we are here, we are the people of Australia. Also the styles I did were focused around connection - the circles, the dots, the earthing colours - I really wanted it to be grounded with Mother. I also had a bit of fun with it and tried out different techniques, so throughout the piece you'll see different shapes, sizes and styles, which I really enjoyed doing.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I’ve been a professional athlete for 7 years now, and I'm getting to an age where I want a bit more balance so I can live life as a normal human being. Art is definitely an avenue I want to pursue after rugby, it would be pretty special to have a full time art gig one day.
You can find Dylan on Instagram @dylanpietsch or visit his website at Wulwaay.com - he’s also promised that he’ll work his magic on TikTok soon, so watch this space!