Danie Mellor: Exotic Lies Sacred Ties
This major survey focuses on the past decade of Danie Mellor’s practice, and is the first exhibition to consider in depth the artist’s contribution to contemporary Australian art. The cultural perspectives in Mellor’s work have become increasingly significant since he and his mother strengthened their relationship with family members of the Mamu, Ngagen and Jirrbal peoples on the Atherton Tablelands of North Queensland, and reconnected with particular areas of Country. Mellor’s twenty-first century works unravel connections between his familial cultures and the secrets inherent in Australian history. Starting from what he refers to as ‘post-settlement’ Australia (beginning with European settlement in the late 1780s), his practice focuses on the historical intersections of people, ideas and culture, and the transformations that resulted when Indigenous environments were appropriated and commodified.
In his complex visual account, Mellor manipulates British imagery from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which he layers with his own distinctive record of the cultural differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia. His choice of media, colour and ornate frames are integral to a conceptual understanding of his work. The various media and techniques he employs—drawing, painting, printmaking, glass, ceramic, chrome, bronze, crystal, glitter, gold—provide him with a rich repertoire from which to create the narrative he is compelled, by his heritage, to address. In contrast to his often deliberate use of artifice, in his recent large scale work Bayi minyjirral, 2013, draws the viewer into a great rainforest canopy where Aboriginal people look up in reverence at the baskets that hold the bones of their dead as they hang in state.
In this exhibition Mellor’s narrative unfolds through a number of recurring themes which compel us to consider Australia’s colonial legacy and encourage engagement with the nation’s shared and contested histories.