Image Credit: Danie Mellor with his work Bayi Minyjirral 2013 Mixed media on paper 300 x 360 cm (9 panels, each 100 x 120 cm) Private Collection, Brisbane.
This year has been a busy and successful one for the Australia Council’s Visual Arts Chair Danie Mellor.
A major survey of his work covering the past 10 years, Exotic Lies, Sacred Ties, is now touring the country. It opened at the University of Queensland in January and is now on show at TarraWarra Museum of Art, Victoria until 27 July. It will move to Darwin’s Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory on 29 August, before closing on 16 November.
Danie was one of several Australian artists to show at the recent Art Basel in Hong Kong. All of his beautiful, mixed media works on paper sold out on opening night and he has taken orders from those who missed out.
Danie is now preparing for the opening of Primordial: SuperNaturalBayiMinyjirral, which opens on 1 August at the National Museum of Scotland, his first exhibition in that country.
The show, inspired by the museum’s World Cultures Collection, will include sculptures, including a bronze kangaroo, and new works on paper that explore his Indigenous and European heritage.
The striking thing about many of Danie Mellor’s works is the dominance of blue and white. Mellor’s penchant for these two colours stem from his admiration of Spode china, which was first popularised in the United Kingdom in the early 1800s.
Danie said he was attracted to the blue and white after seeing some of the famous fine bone China in England. It was adopted as a global, visual language, which represented the exotic or the foreign.
‘It’s the imagery I’m interested in, not the ceramics, the way they transcribe through the engravings the exotic places in the world,’ Danie said.
His mixed media pieces have a mythical quality, depicting early Australian settings with native animals and Aboriginal tribesmen often interacting with colonial settlers. The use of Swarovski crystals on the boarders and fine detailed drawing heightens the mystique.
His paintings explore the passing of cultural knowledge through ritual and ceremony and the way knowledge is imparted, kept and maintained.
‘The picture is a narrative space with an historical truth, but it’s not a singular event I’m portraying,’ Danie said.
‘I’m presenting a reflection of history.
‘There were hundreds of thousands of casualties over the colonisation process.
‘My work examines how people are impacted through historical events and how we can have a dialogue around that.
‘It’s about finding ways to weave narratives together in a way that can be understood and engaged with.’
He said the core themes of his work were about a transformed environment and a focus on the quality of nature. The animals represent the balance between ecology and the environment and how it has been affected over time and the ongoing impacts.
Unlike some other contemporary artists, Danie’s works are very detailed.
‘The detail almost transports you in a way into another world.’
Danie’s recent works, such as the ones exhibited at Art Basel, are less ornate, but the blue and white motif has largely been retained.
‘The technique is the same, but it’s a different approach,’ Danie said.
‘They’re more realistic, with a heightened sense of realism and I’m more interested in the detail.
‘The new works explore ideas of the cycles of life and mortality and what’s beyond that.
‘It’s a mysterious and mystical space where the unexplained is unfolding.’
Born into a multicultural family consisting of an Australian father, an American grandfather and a mother with Irish and Indigenous heritage, Danie grew up in Scotland, South Africa and Australia. These intersections are evident in his work.
‘Our ancestry, heritage and relationships have an impact and all the work is informed by my background,’ Danie said.
To see some of Danie’s work, go to: https://daniemellor.com/portfolio/