Elaborately decorated rolling floral landscapes entice the gaze of the viewer to fall into Danie Mellor’s carefully constructed, deeply expressive worlds.
‘Exotic Lies Sacred Ties’ celebrates a collection of more than fifty of his works created over the past decade. Curated by Maudie Palmer AO, this survey of works has come together from private and public collections all over Australia.
Mellor’s practice is constructed from a multitude of materials; these include pastel, pencil, printmaking, glass, glitter, gold, Swarovski crystals and watercolour. Mellor also builds sculptural installations that compose of taxidermy animals, mosaic, neon and found objects, all of which define his distinctive and recognisable style.
Mellor is a descendant of Scottish, Irish and Indigenous heritage – of the Mamu and Ngagen rainforest people with connections to the Jirrabal. He holds strong ties with his mother’s country in the Atherton Tablelands of Far North Queensland. Mellor’s lineage has significantly influenced his artistic practice; he explains “It’s been highly influential in developing a visual language that incorporates multiple histories and also cultural perspectives that critically frame specific and global interpretations of experience.”
The longer you stare into the precisely developed paintings the more is delicately revealed. We witness a slow unraveling of carefully orchestrated themes that uncover the dark realities of a series of sometimes unpleasant circumstances. Mellor is solidifying and recording Australia’s history from a forgotten past that has had a significant effect on the lives of so many. An imperative focus is the time of the European settlement in Australia and the results in which this had on Indigenous people and the environment.
Meaning is finely woven into each painting. Your eyes scan the appealing colours as you start to recognise iconic Australian animals. Reds, greens, yellows and browns lay in contrast to their blue and white sterile and bleak worlds, worlds absent of all that we associate with nature. The depicted creatures stand as a beckoning reminder of all that remains in their diminishing landscape. The heavy use of blue and white is a reoccurring and distinctive feature that can be attributed to Spode China from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; a fitting technique to represent a changed and tainted environment that has developed indifference from where it once came.
The meaning embedded into Mellor’s displays is undeniably present and reads as a poetic narrative as particular symbols speak of a suppressed truth that needs to be told. Mellor expresses “It’s important to give voice to Indigenous language and perspectives within the frame of my practice, and generate contextual perspectives that acknowledge shared and complicated histories”.
It can take up to two to three months to complete an individual piece especially when working with large-scale pieces. To deliver so much detail at this size requires great patience and technique, this becomes evident when seen up close and in person from different perspectives. Each scene is planned and researched before commencement and develops as it continues.
To observe Mellor’s strategically curated survey in one space strongly reinforces his fundamental contribution to contemporary Australian art. When asked what he hopes viewers will take with them after they observe his work, he responded “An appreciation of the complex ways in which we experience the world, and the mystery of existence that underlies our place in that”.
TarraWarra Museum of Art
Until 27 July, 2014
Et in arcadia ego (of landscape and memory), 2011, pastel, pencil, glitter, Swarovski crystal and wash on Saunders Waterford paper, 152 x 226cm
Exotic lies and sacred ties (the heart that conceals, the tongue that never reveals), 2008, installation: pastel, pencil, glitter, Swarovski crystal and wash on paper, framed, with mosaic china, taxidermy animals and painted wood, 325 x 325 x 130cm
Courtesy the artist and the University of Queensland, Brisbane